Jerzy Szymik

The biblical history of salvation is the fundamental perspective of Szymik’s poetry

The Garden in Pszów

It was
at the hour of the southern wind
wafting over the Moravian Gate
that I heard the footsteps of the Lord God
walking about our garden

I know He comes by
here often, from of old

here on this patch of land
they used to call my people
Matuszki from the Garden
more than one’s baptismal record
reads Zagrodnik or Gärtner

And I know now, Lord, that I am unclothed
But I am not hiding myself from Your eyes

I hoe and weed, I watch, I linger here,
according to Your word. You know that well
for You come by, You pray here.
I know from Magdalena it’s no gardener
but You.

I snip, I spread manure – and I’ll uproot
or plant, according to Your will.

I am at home. This is no longer Eden
nor yet Gethsemane. Between Paradise
and the stamping press of sweat and blood.
That moment from the prophetic books endures,
Your promise: the life of the redeemed
will be like a well-watered garden.

I hear Your footsteps and I live by Your
prayer; I’m cooled by Your breeze

paradisiacal, olive-scented, Pszowian.
The tree of knowledge, gnarled trunks, elder.

The shrill whistle of swallow, woodpecker, nightingale.
My sweat sinks in the earth
with Your blood.

They ask me ever more frequently:
was it not you I saw with Him in the garden?

Yes, that was me

Pszów, 17 January 2020

Sara Sampaio

the twenty-four year old body
of Sara Sampaio
graces Lisbon in August.
The body of Sara eight storeys tall
reigns over the white city
from the exterior of shopping gallery
cell-phone headquarters
and the cranes at the Olivais docks,
exposed to the eyes of all
like the bodies of thieves in mediaeval pillories
and stocks or those of heretics during the Spanish reign
or those of half-naked gladiators on the Roman sands
of Olissippo. And just like them it arouses desire and awe,
lewd jeers and indifference by turns. Sara
Sampaio is the face, breast and thigh of Victoria’s
Secret. Now, on this silver afternoon beneath the banner
of Sara’s body, which lends a patch of shade,
I’m reading Deutero-Isaiah in my breviary –
‘there is no beauty in Him, nor comeliness
and we have seen him, and there was no sightliness
that we should be desirous of Him’
when a crane pulls up. To paste over the body of Sara Sampaio.
But we’re all counting on this – before long, above the city
Ana Delgado’s body will reign: the face, breasts and
thighs of Calzedonia.
On the far bank of the Tagus, in the heat waves of the
air above Almada
stands the statue of Christ the King. Eight storeys tall.
But He has no comeliness, that we should be desirous
of Him.

Lisbon, 2015 – 2018 – 2020

Translated by Charles S. Kraszewski

Jerzy Szymik

The biblical history of salvation is the fundamental perspective of Szymik’s poetry

Publisher: Księgarnia św. Jacka, Katowice 2020
Translation rights: Księgarnia św. Jacka, joanna.pakuza@ksj.pl

’This is no longer Eden / nor yet Gethsemane. Between Paradise / And the stamping press of sweat and blood’ [Już nie w Eden, jeszcze / nie w Getsemani. Między rajem a tłocznią potu / i krwi] – thus, in the collection The Garden [Ogród] Fr Jerzy Szymik describes his vital coordinates. The biblical history of salvation is the fundamental perspective here, which should not especially surprise us, since the author is a Catholic priest. However, one needs to add from the start that with these poems we are dealing with a poetry that is thoroughly modern. What strikes one most in reading them is the poet’s finger on the pulse, or perhaps the trembling, of our contemporary world. The poet is able to create an extraordinarily apt portrait of our reality, with truly surgical precision, plunging his blade – without anaesthesis – there, where the illness plaguing the world demands decisive incisions. And yet at the same time, he fosters with the tenderness of a gardener that which is fragile in us, delicate, in need of protection, beautiful. ‘I snip, I spread manure – and I’ll uproot / or plant, according to Your will’ [Przycinam, nawożę. Każesz – wyrwę. / Chcesz – zasadzę. Powiesz – zrobię]. With such words from the poem that opens the volume Fr Szymik intimates that, in order to deal with the world, and oneself, one must first listen for the voice of God.

In this book we find the sharply-toned Letter of a European to Athena Farrokhzad in Answer to Her “Letter to Europe” [List Europejczyka do Atheny Farrokhzad w odpowiedzi na jej „List do Europy“]. His polemics with the author considered to be one of the most important voices of contemporary Swedish poetry clearly shows where the front in the ideological and moral struggles runs, through our continent, and through Poland as well. A polar opposite to this can be found in the tender poems dedicated to the poet’s mother, his friends, music, and landscapes that take one’s breath away. The poet seems to assure us here that everything is not yet lost: ‘So the world turns still, Europe sways, / but we ourselves look not like people / who are tired of it all. Chris / Rea plays on our emotions, oleanders, / slippery, humid, flame and their aroma cries to the heavens’ [Świat więc się kręci, Europa zakręca, / a i my sami nie wyglądamy tu na ludzi, / którzy mieliby wszystkiego dość. Chris / Rea gra na naszych emocjach, oleandry, / śliskie, wilgotne, płoną i pachną wniebogłosy]. These are verses full of yearning for that love, which – as the poet believes – we will find at the end of our journey.

Szymon Babuchowski

Translated by Charles S. Kraszewski

Selected samples

Jakub Małecki
Wiesław Myśliwski
Elżbieta Cherezińska
אנדז'יי ספקובסקי
Aleksandra Lipczak
Jacek Dukaj
Wit Szostak
Bartosz Biedrzycki
Zyta Rudzka
Maciej Płaza
Wojciech Chmielewski
Paweł Huelle
Przemysław "Trust" Truściński
Angelika Kuźniak
Wojciech Kudyba
Michał Protasiuk
Stanisław Rembek
Krzysztof Karasek
Elżbieta Isakiewicz
Artur Daniel Liskowacki
Jarosław Jakubowski
Zbigniew Stawrowski
Szczepan Twardoch
Wojciech Chmielarz
Robert Małecki
Zygmunt Miłoszewski
Anna Piwkowska
Dominika Słowik
Wojciech Chmielewski
Barbara Banaś
Rafał Mikołajczyk
Jerzy Szymik
Waldemar Bawołek
Julia Fiedorczuk
Jakub Szamałek
Witold Szabłowski
Jacek Dukaj
Grzegorz Górny, Janusz Rosikoń
Paweł Piechnik
Andrzej Strumiłło


Marta Kwaśnicka
Piotr Mitzner
Paweł Sołtys
Wacław Holewiński
Anna Potyra
Wiesław Helak
Urszula Zajączkowska
Marek Stokowski
Hubert Klimko-Dobrzaniecki
Jakub Małecki
Łukasz Orbitowski
Małgorzata Rejmer
Rafał Wojasiński
Wojciech Kudyba
Włodzimierz Bolecki
Jerzy Liebert
Wojciech Zembaty
Wojciech Chmielarz
Bogdan Musiał
Joanna Siedlecka
Krzysztof Tyszka-Drozdowski
Jarosław Marek Rymkiewicz
Marek Bieńczyk
Leszek Elektorowicz
Adrian Sinkowski
Szymon Babuchowski
Lech Majewski
Weronika Murek
Agnieszka Świętek
Stanisław Szukalski
Barbara Klicka
Anna Kamińska

She climbed her first peaks in a headscarf at a time when women in the mountains were treated by climbers as an additional backpack. It was with her that female alpinism began! She gained recognition in a spectacular way. The path was considered a crossing for madmen. Especially since the tragic accident in 1929, preserved … Continue reading “Halina”

Wojciech Chmielarz

First, Marysia, a student of an exclusive private school in Warsaw’s Mokotów district, dies under the wheels of a train. Her teacher, Elżbieta, tries to find out what really happened. She starts a private investigation only soon to perish herself. But her body disappears, and the only people who have seen anything are Gniewomir, a … Continue reading “Wound”

Anna Kańtoch

A young girl, Regina Wieczorek, was found dead on the beach. She was nineteen years old and had no enemies. Fortunately, the culprit was quickly found. At least, that’s what the militia think. Meanwhile, one day in November, Jan Kowalski appears at the police station. He claims to have killed not only Regina but also … Continue reading “Penance”

Marek Krajewski

The year is 1922. A dangerous time of breakthrough. In the Eastern Borderlands of the Republic of Poland, Bolshevik gangs sow terror, leaving behind the corpses of men and disgraced women. A ruthless secret intelligence race takes place between the Lviv-Warsaw-Free City of Gdańsk line. Lviv investigator Edward Popielski, called Łysy (“Hairless”), receives an offer … Continue reading “A Girl with Four Fingers”

Ks. Tomasz Stępień

This question is closely related to the next one, namely: if any goal exists, does life lead us to that goal in an orderly manner? In other words, is everything that happens to us just a set of chaotic events that, combined together, do not form a whole? To understand how the concept of providence … Continue reading “Order and Love”

Jakub Małecki
Szczepan Twardoch
Wiesław Helak
Maria Wilczek-Krupa
Anna Kańtoch
Rafał Kosik
Paweł Sołtys
Dorota Masłowska
Wiesław Myśliwski
Martyna Bunda
Olga Tokarczuk
Various authors
Mariola Kruszewska
Waldemar Bawołek
Marek Oleksicki, Tobiasz Piątkowski
Wojciech Tomczyk
Urszula Zajączkowska
Marzanna Bogumiła Kielar
Ks. Robert Skrzypczak
Bronisław Wildstein
Anna Bikont
Magdalena Grzebałkowska
Wojciech Orliński
Klementyna Suchanow
Andrzej Franaszek
Natalia Budzyńska
Marian Sworzeń
Aleksandra Wójcik, Maciej Zdziarski
Józef Łobodowski

The work of Józef Łobodowski (1909-1988) – a remarkable poet, prose writer, and translator, who spent most of his life in exile – is slowly being revived in Poland. Łobodowski’s brilliant three- volume novel, composed on an epic scale, concerns the fate of families and orphans unmoored by the Bolshevik Revolution and civil war and … Continue reading “Ukrainian Trilogy: Thickets, The Settlement, The Way Back”

Piotr Zaremba
Wacław Holewiński
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