Poetry
Anna Piwkowska
Between the Monsoons

Subtle, linguistically refined poetry links various cultural traditions

Old Women

Old women – helpless and beautiful
with pearls in their ears and sapphires in their eyes –
maybe faded from tears, maybe washed out,
onyx of pain in shining pupils,
in carmine of lipstick in this dump
where next to trash – refined trinkets.

Old women remember well
sheep, hills, meadows, and robes
tossed in the grass, their nudity in a stream,
sturdy lacey shoes with worn soles,
when the paths still led them up.

Old women entombed in amber
like two butterflies, dragonflies in wetlands
while through the windows the glitter of city lights
and they see again: they stand in the strip of fire,
lean, in uniforms, in the limelight of history
and they – young women, young brides
run in their dresses and lacey shoes.

Old women remember well
long hours in queues in snow
for bread, for a good word of somebody’s Christmas.
And now they sit fragile and helpless
in plush purple, gilded chairs,
while they bring them gold discs on satin,
splendid medals, special addresses.
Precious women, rescued widows.

Old women remember well:
Wolves left, wolves came again.
Old women got up, cleaned, left.

Red Bucket

He came out the door with a red bucket
and splash!
Rays and leaves pirouetted in a flush.
And when the movement ceased, a flock of jackdaws
lifted off to drink moisture from drops before they
vanish in grass.
Everything transforms, and movement and being
are not separate forms of consciousness.
Waking sleep waking are the same:
a conversation with the receding world
and the beloved dead.
For a moment it seemed
that in this splash, flush, motion
I see your and my faces, my and your faces
when they lean towards each other in a quiet talk,
interrupted by laughter, lost forever.

Translated by Ewa Chrusciel

Poetry
Anna Piwkowska
Between the Monsoons

Subtle, linguistically refined poetry links various cultural traditions

Publisher: Znak Publishers, Kraków 2019
Translation rights: Znak Publishers, bolinska@znak.com.pl
Foreign language translations: Piwkowska’s poems has been published in anthologies in Bulgaria, Germany, Italy, Israel, Lithuania, Russia, Serbia, Spain, UK, and USA. The novel Franciszka was translated into Lithuanian and Slovenian.

Anna Piwkowska writes poetry of captivating images which exist suspended between the past and the present; the human world and the natural one; life and death; fullness and emptiness… Sometimes – or maybe always? – these poems comprise opposites so as to pose the question: ‘Can one trust the reason,/ whom instincts contradict?/ And the instinct which lie/at every step, step by step?’ (So It Revolves in the End?). The poet does not want to resolve anything; her words are not meant for that role, but describe, instead, the fullness of experience, which is a stranger to neither laughter nor tears, nor to contentment with what there is, nor a loss of what is. Bitter awareness accompanies this endeavour, since a word only embraces bits of reality. ‘This is perhaps the biggest sin – to be/and not be able to name what is created and named’ (Things We Lose).

A fragile human existence, endangered by its finiteness, at the mercy of grander forces, such as history (for example: It’s Me, A Jew from Auschwitz) and nature (for example Lucky Charm) have their places in the world’s eternal order. Perhaps it is the place of Atlantis (Golden Fleece), the islands buried in the abyss, as the life of a man seems to pass away between monsoons, when ‘time freezes’ – as we read in the titular poem recalling the life of Karen Blixen. To describe it all, Anna Piwkowska, in her subtle, linguistically refined poetry, links various cultural traditions (we find here mythological, biblical, literary, and fine arts allusions) and various poetic forms (formal and free verse). The world of her poems vibrates, shimmers, as if the poet wanted to say that everything is contained in ‘metre, rhythm and rhyme’ (Plantation). And that ‘the non- existent changes into the existent/ and then the alive into the dead and living/somewhere else’ (Somewhere Else).

Karol Alichnowicz

Translated by Ewa Chrusciel

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69

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