Krzysztof Kamil Baczynski

but you are a tree
R.M. Rilke

In every transformation resembling the sphere of time
you spin like a year, standing and still from here
I see you in plains, mountains and forest manes,
on which you pour light from a jug of clasped hands.
And resembling the sea you transfer the image of all climes
that flowed and banged the brass kettles of clouds.
Your hand moves - it's winter, you smile - it's fall,
shake thorns from cockspur with a puff of copper feathers.
In apples you grow and fill greens with yellow juice.
I'll clasp the air - you are each shrub
and each bird in the larch
or a cloud of music
and the golden cord of trees.

Ah, twigs burn in fireplaces and sleds slide through fluff
stretching herself a cat purrs, swells into a pliable bow.
You are in the river and in each movement your smile is cast.
Awake with snow, with meadow, change into the antlers of deer,
Toward evening you'll become flesh and in my body fall to sleep.
And I'll wake again in the morning, the tired folk will pass,
will find on my breast a white hawthorn asleep.

11 February 1942


It's you who roared with lightning blows
on anvils of rigid pupils,
so skulls were too small for terror,
and hearts too big for earth.

It's your palm that hurricane-like hurled
fiery bullets at the spherical vault,
and upon men's paths dreams and ruins
smoking like your fresh track.

And you congealed in slaughters' roar
amid the wanderings of deafened generations,
till besieged by the barrels of goblets
you stood waterdrop on a table.
What are you, when the fire of zodiacs
poured from above has dimmed in the light,
and attacking you continually fill
glasses -- beating with their cells' nucleus?

October 1941

Translated by Alex Kurczaba Alex Kurczaba is an Associate Professor of Polish at the University of Illinois-Chicago.

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The Sarmatian Review
Last updated 09/30/97