(trans. from Polish Elżbieta Wójcik-Leese)



joy of the man who kneels down in snow

the world’s spirit

smoulders, vital air

in his blood

Alnitak Alnilam and Mintaka where the sun rises

followed by Sirius, the brightest Dog

if indeed Proxima is a satellite of Alfa Centauri,

its orbiting the system takes circa a million years.

Lovers Against the Blue Background

Such spaces where wild light unscrupulously

pours down owe their existence to the sun (that is, the hole

in the big bag of lava). The zone of wings ---

a strong steady straight flight and a quick

plunge, an almost free fall of matter

hitting the target.

Why them over there? Above the rooftops, and treeheads?

Above the grimy carpet of clouds?

What strange vehicle, fuelled by dreams, has elevated them so?

Earthbound, we gaze upwards.

The vast expanse has a white band aid on its cheek.

If we must vanish, may it be together:

void next to void, a single pair of wings.

To dive: sky sea sand

                   the whole island of flowers.


I will show you love in one handful of stars.

Are you familiar with festive snow on roadside leaves?

The purple contour of a day in December?

I have come here to breathe.

There are small dancers in a drop of river water.

A paradise for insects behind each garden gate;

a nest where the arms of that stout pine tree bend;

in the nest of my arms, the child’s milky breath.

Gently we inhabit the world on its exhale,

one dark added to another dark.

Lips against the cheek.

Cheek against the thigh.

Gently we inhabit the world on its exhale,

the warm fur of the she-wolf and her sharp teeth.

The frost’s razor strokes the skin of the murky river,

those who live there soundlessly drop to the bottom.

I have come here to breathe.

Our things and their grief in the winter sky.

Snow quickly melts on the child’s cheeks,

our eyes laugh to stars,

sky meets the smooth skin of the river,

I breathe, I breathe therefore I am.

Sorrela La Luna

Light, unheard-of, in this powerful night.

It doesn’t have a source.

It doesn’t want to subside.

The face of the moon cut by the lines of branches,

the labour of an ant

incessantly going to heaven.

Because an ant contributes to the process,

the dance of old pines in this dim cathedral,

where one dark joins another dark.

Because a leaf contributes to the process,

it’s worth living and dying, living and dying,

living and dying slowly

like a star. These know how to impress ---

little explosions of the world’s enormous soul,

which doesn’t have a source, which goes on expanding.

Mummy, this music is huuuge!

When the seasons meet,

in the time as clear as sand crystal, the tenderness

of hedgehogs sleeping next to the earth’s pulse.

High in the branches, whispers and calls.

First snowflakes on the child’s cheeks

when we run to get our gift:

the starlit November

over the Narew river.

Mummy, this music is huuuge! was the response of the poet’s daughter to the fragments of John Cage’s The Seasons. She was two-and-a-half then.


Everything had already happened

flames in the hair when the house collapsed

with the living child in my arms I stood by the window

a snippet in the televised frenzy

warm bundle of fear


who screams swallows the rain

photogenically caught red-handed

in the scorching death

on a perfect summer day

a mild form of light among the acacias

when we count on more and more

life when our dear ones

are carried in our wallets

Julia Fiedorczuk (b.1975) is a poet, translator, and lecturer in American Literature at Warsaw University, Poland. She has published four volumes of poetry, most recently Tlen (Oxygen; 2009) and a collection of short stories. Her debut was chosen the best first book of 2003. She is also a recipient of Hubert Burda Preis (Vienna, 2005). Her poems have appeared in anthologies in Great Britain, USA, Slovenia and Sweden. Her translations include English and American poetry, prose and criticism (among others: Wallace Stevens, Laura Riding, John Ashbery, Yusef Komunyakaa). Fiedorczuk’s work inhabits the space between the cold of the stone or the universe and the warmth of our planet, breath, body, blood, the tree. It favours night, water, and the biology of being a woman (including the experience of raising a daughter).

Elżbieta Wójcik-Leese translates contemporary Polish poetry into English. Her translations have been published, among others, in Poetry Review, Poetry London, Modern Poetry in Translation, Poetry Ireland Review, Poetry Wales, Edinburgh Review, Brand, Acumen, Magma, The Wolf, Chicago Review as well as in various anthologies, most recently New European Poets (Graywolf Press, 2008) and Six Polish Poets (Arc, 2008). Salt Monody (Zephyr Press, 2006) is her selection from Marzanna Kielar. She co-edited Carnivorous Boy Carnivorous Bird. Poetry from Poland. A bilingual edition (Zephyr Press, 2004), which presents twenty-four Polish poets born between 1958 and 1969. She is a contributing editor to Poetry Wales and co-editor of Przekładaniec. A Journal of Literary Translation (Kraków, Poland). Her versions of Krystyna Miłobędzka’s are forthcoming from Arc Publications in 2011.