Four Poems

Tomasz Różycki

Hair by Hair

What can I write to you? From all these crumbs
only my name, if I can but remember
its sound inside your mouth, in basic form,
original, from way back pre-eruption.

Now everything keeps flickering. I strive
to strike a balance between what’s revealed
and what conceals the heart. So many particles
of tar are twirling in the air, that only writing

is capable of stitching them to story.
This rule is what they like to call a life:
as long as entropy prevails at dawn
amid colliding clouds, the winter’s war

with time goes on in this illumined kitchen.
The body from a chair defends itself with heat,
depletes the light, energy, burns bit by bit,
losing by a hair. Time keeps right on counting.

The Garden

There was no money, but we traveled south
so we could sleep on grass, eat from a tree
that stood behind a stone wall in the middle
of the garden, watched over by the burning

sword of the sun. Far off, the sea ignited
and went out like bone smoldering. Love grew
so high that we could hide away in it.
But sometimes in the window opposite

a bearded, crazy composer appeared,
for hours rehearsing fragments he could not
combine. Not much besides: a thistle, biting flies
a snake run over by the garbage truck.

Sunday a downpour flooded all our things,
two spiders and a scorpion afloat inside our shoes.
It seemed that time wouldn’t find us, but when
you took a bite of apricot, it was already there.

The Warmest Place

If spring falls short, then be the spring yourself—
you have inside abundant light, enough to heat
whatever’s within reach and even what’s in view:
chair midriff, door slab, icicle knob, room.

So what if the Baltic froze—a Swedish arctic fox
has found a way across the page of ice to write
a runic greeting on the snow in yellow ink
below the lamppost. And the coldest place

at home: the radiator’s hip, the thermal plant
having closed long ago, and there’s no reason
to count on spring, but in you still there’s fire,
so much the covers melt right off in bed,

the district thaws beyond a mile radius,
plus the appropriate depth, add four more
dimensions. Just for starters. Be the spring,
the grass’ green fire and blood, be April, be sun.


We started with the mending of the world
by sorting rubbish into bins at night
under the stairwell, all this junk collected
from distant seasons, trash from best and worst

of years we organized in piles: the first
was empty bottles, those who drank with us
having changed long ago to gas that glows
above the glass—for the second it takes to burn

through joy. The next was paper, all the trees
felled in the name of scribbling: we need
so many strokes to write, to blur the abyss with words
when far away, before the hotel light turns off.

And, lastly, that which was alive but now is not,
waste produced between us when my body
stubbornly tries to touch your body held
at a distance greater than two galaxies.

translated from the Polish by Mira Rosenthal