Cecilia Woloch

 

author photo: Mark Savage

 

(USA)

 

 

 

LETTER FROM IRENA WISZNIEWSKA IN WARSAW, IN WINTER,

TRANSLATED LOOSELY FROM THE FRENCH

 

Dear Migratory Bird —

 

You wrote, « It is only when I travel when I manage to follow my soul. »

This is so true, because it means this « âme » (the French prefer

to speak about « the spirit ») not only is in movement

but is more in movement independent from our will.

 

The destination is less important than the pleasure one takes in moving through space.

 

Recently, it is a sentence of Japanese, Matsuo Basho, author of haiku,

who stopped (arrested) me. Here she is:

« Every day is a journey and the journey is itself a house. »

 

My farm is 100 km from Warsaw, derisory distance,

but that saves me from the home-body life that would have killed my soul —

or, if you prefer, would have withered (branded) my spirit.

 

At home, nothing interesting. The winter beats its full

and the cockroach follows. Even Mishka, my bitch, has bad hair.

 

But spring is soon — the thought enchants me

and, at the same time, distresses me.

And this anguish is like a small delicious cake

for my winter sadness.

 

If you see Jorge, pass on to him my best regards.

And if I would write him a small word, to say

I did not know that he has such a beautiful moustache.

 

To us it snows but that gives a luminosity to the sky.

The crystal air has something of cleansing that lights the head.

But difficult to imagine that there were still some days

I walked barefoot by the sea.

 

Kisses and North Winds,

Irena

 

 

from CARPATHIA (Boa Editions 2009)

 

 

 

POUR VIVIENNE

 

C’est l’heure, little wren,

little shadow on horseback,

wing of black hair,

little Vivienne.

C’est ton père

like a bell being rung:

C’est ton père, c’est ton père.

Il est mort, Vivienne.

What must your mother

have said meaning

gone and forever,

your father, your prince?

How must the news have struck

when she woke you to tell you:

son coeur

s’est arrêté  —?

In which language

can such words be spoken

and not break the spell

of the sleeping child?

Leur princesse,

sur son cheval chéri.

And how will you run again,

small vivid one?

Long-legged,

smelling of grass,

pony and miracle,

wild rush of sun—

as he dreamed of you,

dreamed of you once,

as he dreams now

flying over the field.

 

 

from LATE (Boa Editions 2003)

 

 

 

DZIEN DOBRY

 

Exile is an uncomfortable situation.  It is also a magical situation.”

Helene Cixous

 

In Rzepnik — a village

of maybe twenty families

strewn across hillsides, fields

on the banks of the river

named Merk,  as in Dark,

in the lower Carpathians (end

of the world) — each house

with its weary cow, its chickens

scratching the dirt in the yard;

each window its white

lace curtains; each morning

its light — in the glorified

shed my friends call

home   (bare floors

swept with a broom made

of twigs; bathwater heated

at night on the stove) —

 

where I woke late

one spring day, having dreamt

through the clamour of church bell

and bird-cry, alone,

into absence and hush

(where had everyone gone?) —

the front door ajar and the fire

unstirred; the faint hum of flies

buzzing over the wreckage

of breakfast — half-eaten

apple, brown bread, tin of fish —

 

where I had grown thin

on a diet of grief, unspeakable

consonants caught

in my throat — no word

from my love in that far

other world, nothing

in weeks that did not

taste of ash — and, sighing

put on the kettle to boil

(rat in the well last year)

rinsed out my cup, then,

sensing someone behind me, turned

to whomever had entered

(no murmur, no knock)

and waited in silence:

the neighbor,  Kasczyk —

 

a man I’d watched bent

at his work in the fields

and thought: I know nothing,

some book in my lap — strange

to these villagers, strange

to myself — lost,

with no language

to speak to him now

as he stood in that shimmer

of sunlight and dust, boots

caked with mud, body

worn as a blade

— almost transparent —

fresh eggs in his hands:

 

the shells tinged

with blue and still warm,

I could tell, by the way

he was holding them, cupped

in his palms, the moment

I felt him there — (shift

in the air) in my stubborness,

bitterness, terror of filth

and facing him, wordlessly,

nodded my head.

 

Dobry, he said,

at last: good, and was gone —

only sun on the table,

his gift of fresh eggs.

Dzien  I called out

to the bright, empty room —

having meant to say

thank you, dziekuje,

and said only dzien,  only

day, for dzien dobry,

good day — when I woke

to the grace of eat that

which is offered, knew,

in that light, where to turn.

 

 

from LATE (Boa Editions 2003)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

____________________________________________

 

BIO

 

Cecilia Woloch is the author of six collections of poems, most recently Carpathia (BOA Editions 2009) and Earth (Two Sylvias Press 2015), as well as a novel, Sur la Route (Quale Press 2015). Her awards include a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Pushcart Prize, and prizes from the Indiana review and the New Ohio Review, among others. Based in Los Angeles, she spends half of each year on the road and teaches throughout the U.S. and around the world.

 

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