Joanna Kurowska

 

 

 

(Poland – USA)

 

 

 

 

A House That Says Nothing

 

I’ve slept in a bed that remembers bodies

yours in particular, when it was dying;

It remembers your medications and moans

your courage and fear-and it says nothing

 

I’ve been in a room that remembers people

your father who was sent to a Nazi Oflag

your brother-navy captain, who took his life

and me-the little girl; and it says no word

 

I’ve seen a mirror that remembers faces

that others have forgotten; your guests

who were hopeful or drunk, passionate,

generous or foolish-and it keeps silent

 

I’ve sat at a table that gathered many friends

Kazia-the staunch fighter for a wrong cause

Stasia-the malcontent, kind hearted, boring

And Maryla, whose tragic love never died

 

The table too has joined the house’s silence

Only today I am venturing to hear it out.

I know, to understand nothing, I must yet

learn the silence of the chair and the lamp.

 

 

The End of the World-a Dream

 

Everyone hid in concrete.

Busy with final errands,

some remained out, in the streets.

They could see the sky above.

 

The sun, too close to the moon,

burst suddenly. We saw through

the concrete’s dirty windows,

it was dark and cold outside.

 

Dense fog came. If I must die,

I want to go out and see

how the world ends, said the child

in an old woman’s body.

 

The air was too pure to breathe

at first. She lay on the ground,

expecting death. The high sky,

the color of mud, bubbled.

 

Drops were falling like stars;

then burst into a vapor

Huge flowers formed in the air,

intensely green and solid.

 

A wall of fantastic shapes

unrolled. Her death behind her,

she only feared the woman

with a child, once seen on a train.

 

The child called “Let’s go and pick

dandelions!” The woman snarled,

“Sit down!” Their train keeps rolling

through a world that never ends.

 

 This poem first appeared in Off the Coast

 

 

Encounters

 

You are asking me, daughter, why

my face, pensive and caring

appeared before your mother’s eyes

in her sleep? and where am I?

 

Why did I appear before her?

Why did I not come to you?

But what does it mean to appear,

daughter-and what is a face?

 

On all the roads I’ll be running

to you. I’ll beat in your heart,

fill your mind, dwell in your sight

but you will never see me.

 

Look at the honeybees dancing

around your friend’s grave, as if

the air contained some wax and milk;

as if some honey were in it.

 

 

A Dream House

 

There is a house, old and decrepit
I can take care of only in my dream

Here is the living room—or a bathroom—
The water on the floor must be mopped

Here is the kitchen with a tree in its midst
Oh, so many spider webs to remove!

Here is a drawer full of yellowed papers
in a desk, near the wall soft with mold

Each time I venture to walk upstairs,
my feet  plunge through the cracks

Whoever distributes dreams, please
make mine last longer

so that I clean this house
before I wake up

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

____________________________________________

 

Joanna Kurowska   is a bi-lingual poet-immigrant currently writing in English. She is the author of four books of poetry: Inclusions (forthcoming in 2013, from Cervena Barva Press), The Wall & Beyond (eLectio Publishing, 2013); Ściana (The Wall), 1997 and Obok (Near), 1999 (the last two books published in Poland). Kurowska’s poems in English have appeared in Apple Valley Review, Bateau, Christianity & Literature, The Green Door, Illuminations, International Poetry Review, Off the Coast, Oklahoma Review, Room Magazine, Solo Novo, and elsewhere. A Joseph Conrad scholar, Kurowska holds a doctorate in literature from the University of Illinois at Chicago (2007). Her critical works appeared or are forthcoming in Anglican Theological Review, The Conradian, Joseph Conrad Today, NewPages, Religion And The Arts, Sarmatian Review, Slavic and East European Journal, Southern Quarterly, and elsewhere. She has taught at American universities, including the University of Chicago and Indiana University, Bloomington, IN.

 

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Photographs by John Brownell

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