Translation Tuesday: “I’m Scared of Those Dots” by Mirka Szychowiak

Somebody said that the healthiest ones die most easily.

Today’s Translation Tuesday comes from the Polish writer Mirka Szychowiak. “I’m Scared of Those Dots” is a haunting ellipsis of a story, concealing just as much as it reveals.

I came earlier today, let’s spend as much time together as we can, let’s enjoy each other’s company, stock up on it. As usual, we won’t be able to answer the same questions, but they will be asked nonetheless.

Zbyszek, who pushed you out of that dirty train? Your bloody blonde mop on the tracks, it still hurts. Who did it to us? How are you, Basia, do tell. What’s up? You were the fastest among us, made us so proud. Somebody said that the healthiest ones die most easily. You didn’t want to be an exception, did you? You passed away at a faster pace than when you broke the 100-metre record. Rysiu, your last letter made us angry. You better all come, you wrote. Your life with us was filled with laughter, but you were alone when you shot yourself for some strange girl. We were furious, but almost all of us did come. Almost, because Bolek had left by then, as was his custom, quietly. He fell over and that was it. Two hours after his death, he became a father. Both prematurely. Youth gave us no guarantees, we understood it early on and only Adam didn’t get it in time—it was the youth, which tore his heart apart, like a bullet. It was so literal it stripped him of all romanticism. It poured out of him, ripped him inside and that was it. Later it was Bożenka and Janusz. The two of them and the carbon monoxide from the stove. A potted fern—a nameday present—withered and then somebody called to say that there were less of us yet again.

Strange was this class of ours, the biggest in the school. Ten years later at a reunion, we counted ourselves with concern. Our Polish teacher gathered us by her like a mother hen, surprised that there was space for all of us, no problem; miffed it wasn’t her who was missing; uneasy.

We are sitting in my bedroom, each at their favourite spot. Nothing’s changed. As usual Basia will be the first to read her poems. I wonder if she wrote anything new. How are your epigrams coming together, Rysiu? I won’t even ask Janusz, a novel is a serious business. He might perhaps read us a short excerpt. And I, as always, at the very end. But that’s not the end of it. For a while I’ve been scared of singular dots. Set in a line, they are like pages of a play we didn’t finish writing.

Translated from the Polish by Anna Hyde

Mirka Szychowiak is a Polish poet and short story writer. So far she has published five poetry collections (Człap story [2006], Jeszcze się tu pokręcę [2010], Proszę nie płakać [2010], Gustaw znikąd [2015] and Jakie to życie jest krępujące [2016]). Jeszcze się tu pokręcę was nominated to the Nike Award in 2011. Mirka was also awarded numerous other literary prizes in Poland (Jacek Bierezin Poetry Competition, C.K Norwid Poetry Competition, OKP “Krajobrazy słowa”, the International Short Story Competition in 2015). Her poems in English translation have been included in the Free Over Blood anthology published by OFF_PRESS. A set of poems was also published in B O D Y Literature. Her short stories in English were published on the European Literature Network website as well as in B O D Y Literature. Mirka’s first short story collection, called Gniazdozbiór, appeared in 2015. She lives in Księżyce near Wrocław in Poland.

Anna Hyde (Anna Blasiak) studied Art History in Warsaw, Film Studies in Kraków and Arts Policy and Management in London. She translated over 40 books from English into Polish and some fiction from Polish into English (by Mariusz Czubaj, Wioletta Grzegorzewska, Jan Krasnowolski. Kaja Malanowska, Daniel Odija, Anna Augustyniak, Mirka Szychowiak and Irit Amiel). She also translated poetry into Polish (by Maria Jastrzębska, Mary O’Donnell, Nessa O’Mahony, Vesna Goldsworthy and Martina Evans) and into English (by Mirka Szychowiak and Radosław Wiśniewski). Anna worked in museums and a radio station, ran magazines, and wrote on art, film and theatre. She helps run the European Literature Network and is one of the editors of Babiniec Literacki, a website publishing poetry written by women. She writes poetry in Polish and English. More at


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