Persimmon Tree no 50, summer 2019, New York


In the Forbidden City
at the Peak of Lonely Beauty
the princess prays to Buddha
for a good harvest
and the prompt return of the prince
from the Concubines’ House

in return she will sacrifice
her pearl necklace
and new silk kimono

she will not sacrifice the karst
view of the city
and its sharp osmanthus smell

nor the poem on the rock
engraved in calligraphy
which certifies this.

translated by Krystyna Lenkowska and Sarah Luczaj


„Scattering the Dark” - An Anthology of Polish Women Poets edited by Karen Kovacik

An Overdue Letter to a Pimply Angel

Do you remember the smell of sooty snow
by the chimney?
and the taste of fir branches?
in the morning you meekly pulled my
sled to let me the first of the first
leave triumphant tracks
of winter in the yard

in the evening you hung proudly
on the tree in pink
skirts of tissue paper high
and low
I couldn’t count all of you

happiness you said is not knowing
how much of it you have
one winter you stole
behind the Christmas tree
in lacy hoarfrost
stockings the white girdle your first
shackles of femininity wouldn’t leave you
alone you stroked
your thighs under the skirt to make them
you were hormonally sad from happiness
just like later in that spring when
your first egg was
fertilized with one divine
life and grew
in your mouth
it stretched your bitter-salty
palate into a balloon
of hopeless December hope
you knew all its parameters

you were still my angel

when you broke into limbs and fell
softly I didn’t hand you
a wing forgive me
I too was a pimply flightless bird

glory to you celestial
from the tree
of life.

"Spoon River Poetry Review" 38.1, summer 2013, Illinois State University, US

The Knife with a Red Handle

My sick dad is a little knight and plays
with a red handled knife
he waves it like a saber moves it from hand to hand
a knife I say to say something and he looks at me like I’m a madwoman

ragged after the ritual fight he slumps onto his side and falls asleep
holding the knife upright
when he wakes the knife is the only thing supporting his right hand
his left hand holds onto air

the room smells of a cut apple
this smell threads our memory
someone teaches someone foreign words someone peels an apple for someone
then reads fairy tales

a friend from the past had brought a book
to kill time
but the book titled “Literature of the World” doesn’t fit his palm
it doesn’t shine
it isn’t red

I turn the pages at random
John Updike “Cunts” I read aloud to kill the silence
and dad looks at me as if I were an extraterrestrial

the old book splits in half
the belated present for a literary scholar friend
a man and amateur

neither of them knows any longer what cunts are and what spilled onto the pants
sex or mushroom sauce
the knife with the red handle is most important
it makes sense.

Translated by Ewa Hryniewicz-Yarbrough and Teresa Cedar

The Normal School 2012
A Literary Magazine, Volume Five, Issue One


Krystyna Lenkowska

Translation: Ewa Hryniewicz-Yarbrough

I step accidentally into a clear puddle by Father's bed
"Glucose", says a woman in the next bed
yes there's a leak in the IV
every seventh drop falls on the floor I've counted

I walk down the fire escape and listen to the rhythm
of my soles sticking and unsticking
I take away something that could have been life
I carry it out on my shoes together with dust and mites

the squeaky steps fade as I descend
the sticky stuff dissolves in street dirt and disappears

can I tally what I've taken from him over these years
how much I drained or changed
into small drops?

ABSINTHE 10 (fall 2008), US

Photograph C Grażyna Niezgoda


This old woman wearing a hat and a mink stole on her shoulders
celebrating her memory
is me.

I watch her at close quarters. I can see clearly
her laugh lines.

She lifts a doughnut to the place on her skin
where my lips used to be.

She opens her face and shoves in a doughnut stuck on her finger.
The finger has thickened joints like a spring twig, like Edith Piaf.

How will I touch your body with her claw-like tibia?

She raises her face to your face. I close my eyelids.
She forgets she has no lips.
I forget.

    For the New Century-A Conversation with Myself

In some pose
the mirror captured this
moment of transformation
when for the first time
the tibia peeked out with all its

I didn't think
about identity
or about Emerson's equation
or about the romanticism of burial mounds.
I didn't think.
I couldn't it couldn't.

Only it was or it wasn't
at the tangential point zero or infinity
a simple configuration
of bones.

    To Moment's Measure

A hand
mine yours someone's
on another hand on top of a white glove
a moment's measure.
Several hurried
meanings which barely sound

right under my ring
nail I feel
the accelerated
pulse of

Translator Ewa Hryniewicz-Yarbrough's poetry translations have been published by Absinthe, Image, The New Yorker, Poetry, Tri-Quarterly, and other literary magazines.

BOULEVARD Nos. 65 & 66, 2007
Published by Saint Louis University, US

    Krakow-Warsaw West

I feel the greatest longing at train stations
in angular wating rooms
on dim platforms
and when the train pulls out and passes the backs of houses
the city's cesspool the other side of walls
the pitch-black yards the rickety fences
those unfulfilled garden plots.

I long for places and people left behind
for the way they could have been for me but are for others
I even long for those I have never met
who still belong irrevocably
to my past.

    The Scent of Love

My dog returned at dawn
wounded in the war of passion.
He's lying under a maple tree
and sticks his tongue into a round
wound half-a-finger deep.

In a few hours he'll wag his tail
at the meat of my hand.
Then again he'll run away from home
at the scent of another bitch.

While people are still asleep and dream of each other.

Who was the first to say that love is beautiful?
And who will be the last to say it beautifully?

They Come They Go

For some time now people have done nothing but die.
For instance, recently, Mr. Raczy the watchmaker.
It gets harder and harder to look into the eyes of those
who didn't consider such a possibility.
Let's say, Daria, the wife.

The dead are overgrown with names, lips, hands.
You can't die without them (anyway
you couldn't till now).
Hair and teeth grow after they're gone.

And it's difficult to imagine a country where they don't exist.
They are such a presence that they cause us sleepless nights
parch our lips. Like lovers' living bodies.
And when after many years we accept their mercy
they leave

in a hurry.

    Translated by Ewa Hryniewicz-Yarbrough

CONFRONTATION No 88/89, Fall 2004/Winter 2005
Long Island University, N.Y., US


It gets up first and bustles in my head
arranges images and the sequence of emotions
steps aside
tries to walk softly as if it's never existed.

I don't touch it mornings
that's our agreement and I wait
for it to wash away in the monotony of memory
in the disloyalty of time.
I wait so at last I won't have to wait
all day long.

Evening comes and what's next my dear Lao Tzu?
Here I stutter and confound the audience
those squinting eyes of a chinese cat.
Always at the same place in the dusk
I cross over to the other side of the word beyond the image.
The idea of self-eclipse doesn't exist there.
There's an entry into light one period of time
and love's trusting unhumiliated face
at the level of our eyes and lips.

    Translated by Ewa Hryniewicz-Yarbrough

CHELSEA 73, 2002, New York, US (New York State Council on the Arts)

    An Overdue Letter to a Pimply Angel

Do you remember the smell of snow
with soot, still warm
from the chimney?
And the taste of cut fir branches?
In the morning you meekly pulled my
sled so that I, the first of the first,
would leave triumphant tracks
of winter in the yard.

In the evening you hung proudly
on the tree in pink
skirts of tissue paper high
and low.
I couldn't count you.

"Happiness is," you said, "when
you don't know how much there is of it."

One winter you sneaked
behind the Christmas tree
in lacy hoarfrost
stockings. The white girdle, your first
stocks of femininity, wouldn't leave you alone. You caressed
your thighs under the skirt
to make their material real.
You were hormonally sad from happiness.

Just like later that spring when
your first egg was
fertilized with one divine
life and swelled
in your mouth.
It stretched your bitter-salty
palate into a balloon
of hopeless December hope.
You knew all its parameters.

You still were my angel.

When you broke into limbs and fell
slowly, I didn't hand you
a wing. Forgive me.
I myself was a pimply
flightless bird.

Hail God's
from the Christmas tree
of life.

    The Fifth One

Every moment I kill one tender thought as if it were a persistent fly.
But it wants only to live.

I imagined love like a gigantic fruit fly.

I wonder who would then be the first to die the unnatural death:
I, it, or this fruit of paradise.

    Translated by Ewa Hryniewicz-Yarbrough

PERIPHERY , Journal of Polish Affairs, Volume 8/9, 2002/03
St. Mary's College of Ave Maria University, Orchard Lake MI

    O Torch, O Rose

Who are you, o torch, o rose,
wreath of thorns, spur and mare, djigit
a blind mule at night, daybreak, the trumpet of Jericho?
Weren't you the toppled wall that crumbles

and throws the fear of restraint into our eyes?

Were you Miss Capulet, holy adulteress Hester Prynne,
the almost tamed shrew, seductive Mrs. Robinson, or maybe
Cleopatra's enticing eye on the steps above the walls for your divine feet?
Bloody Lady Macbeth or hemlock itself?

Or maybe you're life itself, its shiver, its prayer in clenched fingers?
Maybe for you armies advance in alluring formations,
ecstatic trumpets sound,
for you cloaks are lined with opulent fabric
and faithful praetorians bend the mountain shadow
to make your forehead glow in the saddle?

O torch, o rose! Unveil the next scarlet letter
of the era of the alphabet, let us read
in what language we'll have to live and grow silent together
to be ready again.

    A Man Wearing a Cap

A man wearing a cap
slowly killed a goose.
He held it between
his legs as if it were
a tongue-lashed
child or a woman
who'd drunk
hemlock and then
been forced to vomit.

A cat sensually
the ritual.
Nearby people
busy with life
were passing.

Only the sound of the forest
and my heart
could be heard.
The silence of that picture
hit me
in the face.

Oh, well.
The millennium goose, the cat, and us.
All cannon

    Translated by Ewa Hryniewicz-Yarbrough