Ewa Chrusciel







We Are the Bride


We were stuck for two days amidst the bombs in Ashrafiya.


A 10-year-old boy came in with a knife carrying

a wedding dress.


He cut the dress into many pieces and gave us each a piece.


We wore it on our heads and went out into the streets.


When snipers see it, they stop shooting.


What if we crossed Europe in wedding dresses,


our wavelengths stretching infinitely.





Inspired by the photography exhibit by Marta Bogdańska in Warsaw, July 2016.


I lost my husband. I could not find him during the firing in Hama. I took my ID with me, and my four children. My mother and my 13 siblings live in Turkey. I am told life is easier there. One day I hope to join them. My name is Hayam. I am 37.


The most important thing I took from Syria is my SIM card for my old phone, which is inactive now, but I keep the SIM card. When I reached Lebanon, all I had with me was a plastic bag. My name is Ahmad. I am 25.


I took fear with me. When it strikes, I take my children and run. When we ran the first time, we took a plastic bag with documents and photographs. My daughter took her Tweety Bird. She keeps her eye on it and in the evening she puts all the candies she has inside it. My name is Muhammad. I am 38.


I took photos of my family and friends when I left our house in Tel Kelekh during the gunfire. Bullets perforated the walls. After crossing the border with Lebanon, I saw on YouTube that our house was demolished. My name is Joanna. I am 22.


I brought with me a wooden box which I bought in Baba Sharqi, a district of Damascus. The box is decorated with mussel shells. I keep my guitar picks in it. My name is Adnan. I am 25.


I took with me my fiancé’s lighter. It is an ordinary lighter. He wanted it back, but I never gave it to him. I did not tell my fiancé I was leaving. He supported Assad. I supported the revolution. We did not talk about politics, to avoid conflict. My name is Noor. I am 21.


I keep prayer beads, called tasbih, which means « to travel swiftly. » I had them on my neck when we left the house in Al-Raqqah. I take them off when I shower. There are 99 beads for 99 names for Allah. My name is Halima. I am 45.


I took golden bracelets from our house in Aleppo with me. I sold them to buy a tent in Lebanon. My name is Mariam. I am 23.


We took a kerosene lamp. We knew there were power outages in Lebanon every four hours. My mother, Fawza, took her sewing machine, which she’s had since childhood. We also took an old mortar. [the name missing]


I took a key with me. I come from Tel Kelekh in Homs province. Fayez, 25 years old.


Even though we left in the summer, I took a red winter jacket, a present from my father. Ruba, 4 years old.


I could not take my pigeons from Daara. My brother told me how to raise them and train them. I fed them out of my hands. Hussein, 16 years old.


I took my radio with me. I don’t let anybody touch it. When I leave the room, I close it in my wardrobe. I know the frequency & exact time of broadcasts. It is like being lost in the sea. The waves take you in all directions. I know the sea. I live in it.  Ali, 70 years old.


I took a scar on my belly. Ahmad, 65 years old.


I took a photo of my cousin, who drowned in the river while crossing the border with Lebanon. Khalil, 24 years old.


I took a cloth, tantal in Kurdish. My sister made it. The light beams out of it. Juma, 33 years old.


I took the Koran with me. I keep it in a special suitcase. Haj Zaher, 51 years old.


I took a photo of my lost son. He was 16 when they arrested him. I have not seen him since. Ibtissam, 40 years old.




Volunteer – Rough Notes


I am on the beach with seventy

irate young men. I keep calling Doctors

Without Borders. The doctors warn me against scabies.

Men stand in a ring. They set their blankets on fire.

I walk around hugging them. Will you marry me –

one after another say. I implore them not to burn the beach.


A ten-year-old boy approaches me:

Smoke?! Smoke! He repeats.

The confusion is infinite.

Finally I get it and we share a cigarette.




From Contraband of Hoopoe (2014)


I buy a sausage at the airport before I leave Poland. Kiełbaska, kiełbasa, kabanos, kabanosik. This, my transcontinental dowry. The sacrificial baby of my tongue. Foreign gods hover over us. If God lets my sausage in, I will eat it like a saint wreathed in incense, circle a table with Gregorian chants. Folkberg variations. The baggage carousel spurts my luggage out. With an air of conspiracy, I transfer this sausage from my carry-on into checked luggage. I look around. I pray for my sausage while I move towards customs. The Angelus trickles. The Angelus salivates. St. George is about to put his spear through a sizzling dragon. My luggage goes through a “sausage scan.” Can an old sausage be born young again? The officer pulls me aside. The officer holds my sausage to the light. His babushka trophy. “It’s a sealed sausage.” I declare with pride. I’ve brought a new species. “But you declared: no meats,” the officer says. “Sealed Sausage is not a meat?” “Sealed sausage is a sealed sausage!” I say, and, the guardian angels of my sealed sausage swarm. They sow faces under the investigation light. The officer blinks when I repeat with determination: “A sealed sausage is a sealed sausage.” He looks blinded. My hypnotic alliteration throws him back into the waters of his childhood where eels jiggle Scottish dances. Oh, sweet detained sausage. Saint of arrests, pray for us. May my new species have mercy on us. Escape at the borders. Oh, oven bird, whose migratory song is a sausage a sausage a sausage. Dear sausage of martyrs. Sealed patriarch. Let the Virgin Liberty swallow it.


Can you feel the apparition? The hoopoe’s wings beat under my blouse. The sound udud udud udud is tearing from my nipples: Pagan pole dancing, my breasts have Turret’s syndrome. My breasts are in flux as if singing church hymns kneeling down, standing up, kneeling down.  I have to stop and soothe them with new lullabies.

The hoopoe is the dybbuk messenger chattering under my bra. This action is not unprecedented. King Solomon sent the hoopoe across the oceans to the Queen of Sheba to urge her with religion. Pliny said nothing about the hoopoe. On the other hand, Kircher in his Collegio Romano had a hoopoe in his collection of skeletons among bones of eagles, magpies, thrushes, and a Brazilian monkey.

My valley of deprivation, my cloud of unknowing, pray for me Upupa epops. Convert me back to wonder. Cure my heart of such morbid desires to come home. It is you who take me across ocean, just as he once took all the world’s birds on a pilgrimage to Simurgh. To a new land where jays are not jaded and finches do not fling seeds at small children.

When I cross the border, I start hiccupping. The officer stares at my nipples. I carry wonder inside me. I bring abundance. I stir the wings within him.




Mourning the Loss


I called the grief support group the other day.

How long has it been since your loss? a man asked.

No specific date, I said. It happened imperceptibly,

through slow shrinking. There were no funeral rites,

only tiny articles missing, confusing parts of speech,

making up my own words. I called friends’ eyebrows

eyebushes. Or I would brood over them, unable to

decide which  words to choose. Do you feel abandoned

by God? the voice on the other line asked.

How could I? I speak in tongues now, but they flicker

in the air – they burn me at the tip and disappear.

Perhaps you could plant a tree

or write a poem? the man asked in conclusion,

as he had to attend to other deaths.






From newest book: Of Annunciations (2017 Omnidawn Press)














Ewa Chrusciel is a bilingual poet and a translator. Her newest book in English “Of Annunciations” (Fall 2017) just got released by Omnidawn Press. Her two previous books are Contraband of Hoopoe (Omnidawn Press, 2014) and Strata (Emergency Press, 2011). She also published three books in Polish: Furkot (2001), Sopiłki (2009), and Tobołek (2016).


Among her many translations, she co-translated with Milosz Biedrzycki selected poems of Jorie Graham into Polish which came out as a book in 2013 in Poland.


Her poems appeared in numerous journals and anthologies in USA, Italy, and Poland, such as Boston Review, Jubilat, Colorado Review, Spoon River Review, Lana Turner, Il Giornale, La Freccia et Il Cerchio, etc.


In her newest book Chrusciel attempts to give voice to the voiceless and find healing in what seems to be an insurmountable rift of dislocation. In the words of the reviewer from Publishers Weekly: “the effectiveness of Chrusciel’s poetics of witness is impossible to deny.”




Her poem Exilium got nominated to Pushcart Prize.


She is an associate professor of creative writing and poetry at Colby-Sawyer College in New Hampshire, USA.





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