Artificial Respiration


Air drawn into the lungs of each of us
Air choking air which throttles all of us
Although invisible still omnipresent
Although transparent still thick as cement
Mixed with the sighs of resignation With moans
Erotic With the groans of those who sleep
With drunken refrains With the newborn’s wail
The whispered prayer The scream of the billy
clubbed The rattle of the dying The loud
farting of army medleys the snoring
of late office dispatches of sirens
industrial the tramway’s screech The smells
of fried dishes of sperm of alcohol
of the milk bar of the petrol station
of the sweat of printer’s ink the meat store
of lilacs chloroform lysol asphalt
The neon glare The dark of detention
The newspaper’s rustle The roar of jets
Air drawn into the lungs of each of us
obedient sufferers of the righteous press
of atmospheric equality
Belaboured by the festive speaker’s hand
Locked in the prison cell with the condemned
Slit by the knife which slices through the bread
Rotated by the propeller of the
office fan Punctured by the bullet’s flight
Soaked with mist And carried by the wind
Flattened by clapping hands greedily
Snapped at by someone’s lunging mouth quickly
Sucked in by someone’s heaving lungs
Washing someone’s face with a gentle breeze
Over this earth And over this country
In the streets of this city In this room
in which at break of dawn a man awakes
Everywhere air which throttles all of us
Air drawn into the lungs of each of us.


am I?
He awakes.
Sucks into his lungs’ depths
the last sleepy dregs of a dumb question.
He wakes. I am. He is. Opens his eyes,
shakes his head. In a dream there came to me
a Question. Someone asked inside of me.
He sits on the edge of the bed.
………………………………………….But calmly. Calmly.
It’s morning. The bed is. And the room is
a hotel room, grey slush outside and street
cobbles, an official trip, the unpleasant
taste in the mouth, chill, glaring
light of dawn. Calmly.
undisturbed, the eternal existence
of the ashtray, the nightstand and the lamp,
the room number in one of the many strange
towns, where you can be but transient and self;
the existence of things questioning you
in the dumb language of planes and solids,
fastness, loath to the vapour human;

His name? Let’s use the time-honoured formula
of unknown soldiers and letters to the
editor: N.N. Which also calls to mind
an amazing number of negations:
notably nothing, not much, or neverending;

he awoke in a new day, a new dread (am I?) a new
uncertainty (who?). Sucks into his lungs’ depths
the first waking dregs of a dumb question,
breathes the public air of his room, the private
discalm of public calmness. Yes, I am.
But calmly.


Thirty-three years,
his hair and his own thoughts ever more scarce,
his heart irregularly beating against the wall
of identity (who am I? who?) and eyes
bloodshot. At the age of thirty-three
the rank attained but sapper in reserve:
congenital lung defect (trouble
with breathing, tho’ the air all breathe is the same)
periodical morbid compulsion
for hand-washing; unfit for military
service in peacetime; it’s small wonder
he has misgivings about the possibility
of promotion,
about that one chance, that univocal time, which
will straighten out his spine and chronically heal
his bloodshot eyeballs (from unhygienic
reading between the lines of the last and most recent
world war
by bad light; let’s speak plainly: in the dark);

and it’s small wonder,
that in fear of security and the hygiene of truth
he covers his eyes: the usual gesture
of the tired man;

that, stopping up his ears, he pays no attention when
instead of the good of the one they say
goodness in oneness; that he tries
to sink into that oneness, full fidelity, full submility
gullibility; although against oneness his double eyes
and ears, lungs, hands and semicircular brainpan
feebly protest;

and it’s small wonder that instead of raising fists
he prefers to execute one more
wave of the hand.


…..That’s him standing amidst the spontaneously organised crowd, waving a handkerchief in greeting to the dear guest from the brother country and marvelling at the fresh in spite of manifold cares complexion of his leader (our old man’s holding up quite well), while the browkissed little girls flutter from the roadway like a cloud of blushing skylarks and the wedge of motorcyclists round the limousine sweeps off slowly and surely like a V of whiteheaded birds flying off into the properly heated country of a better future;
…..that’s him coming to a halt at the sidewalk’s edge, observing with horror and fascination the solemn, rhythmic threshing of billyclubs, their rubbery ascent over the heads of youths escaping towards the nearest church or university, and that’s him smiling to the pedestrian next to him a few seconds later (those hoodlums, have to put ’em in line once and for all), as a puppy in a student’s cap collapses like a sack of grain onto the threshing floor of a roomy van;
…..that’s him you see in the newspaper photo (PLANT STAFF PROTEST AGAINST), standing under the left half of the banner DOWN WITH CONSPIRATORS SEND THE WRITERS TO, that’s his face which expresses nothing besides elastic knowledge hiding in the corners of his mouth: there’s no sense fooling around you don’t go someone else will and snatch the prize from under your nose;
…..that’s him waking up for a moment before the television, as the speaker glistening with hair oil and festive emotion reads with engaged shortness of breath WE SHALL CUT OFF THE HANDS OF THOSE WHO, and that’s him who’d like to listen on, but his chin falls upon his breast, a man toils all day long after all and it’ll be in the paper tomorrow anyway;
…..that’s him opening the window to the strains of the military band when our boys are on the march, off to dispense fraternal aid yet again, his elbows finding for themselves the familiar hollows in the sill,
…..that’s him THOSE AGAINST I SEE NO shoving both hands quickly into his pockets so that the chairman of the assembly should have no doubts;
…..that’s him before the festive platform lifting up the corners of his mouth and a child with a flag in his hand;
…..that’s him who simultaneously with the entire stadium jumps to his feet when the brass and tin wave WHAT THE FOREIGN bursts from the speakers, that’s him who sings the words through a constricted throat, at attention, with one hand UNDER YOUR DIRECTION on the seam of his pants, and the fingers of his other erring in the direction of his heart WE JOIN US WITH manoeuvring near the warm curves of the bottle known as the breastflagon.


Our Father, which art unheeding,
which never answerest any appeal,
and only by the siren’s wail givest notice, that the world
yet exists,
this woman in the tram riding to work
wearing a shoddy greatcoat, with three rings
on her fingers and sleep in swollen eyes
must hear Thy voice,
must hear Thy voice, in order to awake
into this yet another dawn.

Our Father, which knowest nothing,
which never deignest to look upon this earth,
and only by the daily paper proclaimest that the world, our world
spinneth on orderly, look:
that man at dinner-table bending over
his cutlet vodka and the afternoon
newsrag greasy from sauce and printer’s ink,
must know, that Thou too knowest,
must know Thou knowest in order to survive
this yet another afternoon.

Our Father, which art not,
whose name no-one even invoketh
except for didactic broadsheets writing Thee with a small t, for the world
getteth along without Thee,
this man, who lieth down and addeth up
all his day’s lies and fears and treacheries,
all shames necessary and justified
must believe, that after all Thou art,
must believe Thou art in order to sleep through
this yet another night.


‘Today’, the chesty voice enlightens him,
‘we note a hurricane in Australia,
‘catastrophic rainfall in India, and an earth
‘quake in Mexico. So much for the caprices
‘of the world’s weather. Here at home
‘we note no major changes, cloudless sky,
‘air fresh and healthy; playful, gentle winds.
‘In a favourable climate of mutual trust,
‘we’ll come away with more than one success for sure. Above the land
‘a front of increased pressure’s spreading out;
‘the atmospheric pressure falling on each person’s head
‘exceeds predicted norms. This attainment
‘will result in the state’s feeling fresh and serene,
‘sprightly and in form, and that you’ll be in a better state too,
‘breathing in healthy lungfuls of sprightly, healthy, fresh
‘and serene air from the creative climate. And now,
‘our morning stretch’.
…………………………………………..He’ll stay at home
today, the very air Terrifies him.
Those posts driven in each head by heaven’s sledge.
The must of breathing in liquid cement.
Have to stay in the room. Think it over. Have to
settle many things. Think it all over.
Today. Especially today.


‘like every day, we suggest
‘–and one and two and three–lift up the sash.
‘Take a few deep breaths. And now the first exercise:
‘Bend down nice and low. Please don’t stiffen up
‘the spine. And one and two and three.
‘Deeper please. Thaaat’s it. To the very ground.
‘One more time. This capacity
‘–and one and two and three–might come in handy.
‘Now quick bends to the side. As if we were ducking.
‘As if we wanted to evade
‘a slap in the face. And one and two. Left.
‘Right. Thaat’s it, perfect. Now please, in a crouch.
‘We squat down tight, as if we were to spring.
‘As if we wanted to spring at the hangman’s throat.
‘And one and two and three. And yet of course
‘we do not spring. Please remain in your crouch,
‘then stand up slowly. And now at the end we
‘Bow our heads low several times; this makes
‘for supple necks. And one and two
‘and three’.


Cold barbed wire and suitcase string
revolver, bloody cellar wall
the children’s cheeks are reddening
the medal still outshines them all

The frosty wind a glacial plate
lays down upon our words, our heads
sucks out the breath A shallow spade
scrapes out ice gutters for the dead

Past wall And wire On the string
The killing gun beside the head
The medals are the biggest things
the children’s cheeks are round and red

The furry blizzard chokes each wail
Each bullet homes to human white
Gagged and redeemed by scoops of gale
The homeless still through endless night

The steps on stairs the lift’s soft hum
the car which stands before the gate
Ripped out of sleep Each guilty one
prays that it be his neighbour’s fate

Lubianka Katyń Kołyma
Gentle deceptive syllables
The medal still outshines them all
those children’s cheeks that blush and swell.


Between birth and death
many things may come to pass:
among others (who are just like you)
you could suddenly wake up between
the ceiling and the floor of an area which
after some time may prove itself a cell,
a hotel room a co-op apartment
or a dignitary’s cabinet;
You might suddenly come to
between two walls, the one of which
repels a polar blizzard, the other
lapped by the soothing waves of opiate seas;
you might well wake up with your index finger
stuck in the shelf between New Roads and Brave
New World
standing there side by side;
between the paid in full and payment due
or your wife’s periods, you might suddenly feel
that time rolls by and you are getting old;
you might suddenly recover somewhere in between
the smell of dollar-store deodorant
and the barrack’s frosty stench;
between the years 1944
and 1984
you might wake up and feel that you’re always
in between: between family table
and party meeting, between the bedsheet
of the paper you write at night and the blanket
of the paper you buy each day; between your right hand which
smacks into the table and your left hand, which rises
as if on a string to vote for; between the arms
of the ever present cross, which you bear
in your very body;
the cross on the road,
the cross on your grave,
the cries your reward,
the cries, with which you sometimes wake up.


Reading to kill time as well as
unpleasant thoughts Land Alive and Let’s Live Longer,
two hygienic magazines, which one may always
find in every Polish house and public place
(at the barber’s, at the dentist’s, in the WC,
although the paper on which Land Alive‘s printed is too
good for that) one may considerably
broaden one’s horizons:
one may read that in the Land o’ Lies, sorry, that is,
in Land Alive people live longer
for their health’s favoured by the fresh air of freedom;
one may also read that the Land Enslaved, sorry, that is
Land Alive is full of folk who long to live
yet longer
and in union with this mass up in areas
of still fresher and frostier atmosphere:
whole nations even make the happy move.
Likewise Let’s Live Longer gives the land
advice concerning the proper method of respiration
in the fresh air of freedom:
if it’s too frosty one must simply hold
one’s breath until the first thaw comes around;
for weaker folk, apply artificial respiration.
It’s as simple as that.


A tongue in which the word security
makes one’s hairs stand on end, whose word for truth
is a newspaper title, whose freedom
and democracy subject themselves to
the head of the police;
how did it happen, that we started to
fool around with puns and calembours,
equivoques and double entendres,
all this linguistic poetry?

To live in the day of the Incessant Wink,
the Knowing Nod, the Shrug Acquiescent
(what can I do about it
you yourself understand) the tap on the knee
behind the presidium (privately, I sympathise with you,
comrade), the cordial embrace
of yesterday’s informer;
what’s going on with us that we’re always
fooling around with ritual gestes, intelligent
smiles? With these charades in foetid air,
this complex acrobatic?

To live in a precinct (justly called our
), where the eating of meat
in the light of most recent research proves
unhealthy, where each new price hike proclaims
increased well-being; where Jews are ever to blame
where no Jews are (gas took care of most, the rest–gazettes
twenty-five years later),
where as in Athens bloom academies
for bulls and where the ballot-urns are stuffed
by nearly every citizen of the land
including the sick and convicts serving time
and more than one absentee from ‘cross the Styx;
what exactly is compelling us to this
fooling around with logic rebuses?
these instant paradoxes? Mental
distractions? What?


Those several tens or several hundred,
those who weren’t frightened, those who exchanged
the monthly salary for barbed wire,
a wife’s embrace for a plank bed, respect
of neighbours for handcuffs, a house’s walls
for walls of execution:

must it be luck’s affair, the Last Assize
whose question will be simple, the answer
being a simple yes or simple no?
Why is it that this court, always in session,
never last, ever hurried, ever bored,
won’t even deign to hear my answer through,
but yawns and clears its throat while I stammer out
my ‘maybe’s, ‘well’s, ‘yes, but . . .’s and ‘rather no’s? Why
won’t it prompt me when at last I’m still,
afraid to spit out anything? And why
is this case such a common one, that even
the most interested audience leaves
or falls asleep–and none appreciates,
no one will remember my refusal,
my ‘no’?
…….This is no scene for tragedy,
this is a stuffy hall where judges drowse
and golden motes quiver in the sunbeams
which rarely glance in through the unwashed panes.


Neither hell nor imprisonment
Barbed wire nor hangman’s bight
Just dropjawed blank astonishment
And loud whoops of delight

Nor call them out upon the floor
Nor hammer tabletops
They’ll only shake their heads the more
And laugh until they drop

Open your mouth Let it be said
That it’s all lies You’ve had enough
They’ll turn away their stonied heads
Lunatic What a silly duff

For all your trouble here’s your prize:
You ass Why make a fuss
you really want to compromise
Your wife your kids and us

Nor hell nor execution block
Barbed wire nor devil’s gaff
Existence as a laughingstock
One grand derisive laugh


Consuming cold black pudding
and reading in the daily press a gallantly brave note
on the unsettling drop in quality
of this product (As for the butcher’s ware
one of our favourite dishes is
black pudding. Popular not
only because of the reasona-
ble price but equally for its
nutritive qualities [groats].
It’s not strange then, that black pudding
has many fans. Unfortunately, rec-
ent quality leaves much to be
desired. It is often so
salty, that it is not sui-
ted for consumption. Not rare-
ly, too, we come across
an excess of pepper. After in-
gestion of such highly seasoned
black pudding, the large quantities
of spirits employed to slake
the over-stimulated thirst
come as no surprise at all.
The question arises: is no one
in charge of quality control
for this type of sausage)
N.N. weaves inobligatory dreams
in which black puddingthe grey man’s ambrosia,
which gives him everlasting life
becomes simultaneously his very flesh
and black host: careful, don’t bite into it,
‘cos blood squirts out.


in the name of the grey man
the slick and cloudy flood of dawn, which brings
grey soap and towel, ‘and one and two and three’
from the grimly rousing radio, and snow with rain
on tramway windows, and the dishcloth
to wipe away the slops of blood pudding
herring and coffee, and hospital sheets
and elbow marks on the windowsill and
crumpled newspaper:
Greyness flows down
into the nameless name he answers to
first, to christen him later with heavy drops
of drink when he flings down the gun and flees: and then
grey like lead is each drop of his blood;
he hears that he’s the grey salt of the earth, yet knows
not, that such salt might serve just as well as
always the first in line when meat is scarce
for the cannon’s threaded gullet,
but in the meat line always at the grey
end, even when he queues up
at four; even taking into account
that almost all are grey and that the grey
is the same for all;

in the name of the grey man
ever flows greyness, till on a certain day
it thickens into black
………………………………………….and then
black like fire will be each drop of his blood.


Where are you off to in such haste
Wait up Slow down Walk free
Why can nothing light up your face
Not even this frost cool and chaste
and the wisp of the sweep-field breeze

And oh this climate: biting, pure,
a steal at even such a price
Oh how our envy daily grows
(we stuffed past gills and sated nose)
of your delicious fields of ice

Destroyed by grammes deprived of meat
To feel the pain of real flogging
In our world of civility,
civil and gentle, responding, free,
we lack such piquant seasonings

But (f)reely There with thee and thine
it’s not all that bad Poets here
are ferried ‘cross the Styx sometimes
(So come, confess: it seems their rhymes
fall now and then upon some ear)

Why will you pull and jerk and wrench
at iron unhappy prisoners
You’ll only break your lungs and strength
You know that freedom’s not one-tenth
A happier life or easier

The choking hand upon your throat
let’s say it drags you toward the hole
But there between the steel poles
of pincers one learns all about
the truth of the pendulous soul

Why will you strain so at the bars
To freedom’s cotton days you’ll draw
Much surer at a freer pace
At this rate you won’t get too far
Peace I tell you Peace now peace


SACRIFICIAL WORK PLAN he reads in the tattered
daily gazette found on the floor
the walls are decorated with schematic
frescoes depicting copulation and
schematic life-truths Socialism’s
guiding thought: Work a little sit
a lot
MITMENT: two male organs are depicted
coming together with the caption Pete
licks meat
N.N. turns the clipping to the oth-
FORMING: beneath the image of a pair
of full, female lips FOR THE BEST BLOW
the rest ripped off WE TAKE
OUR SECOND WIND; on the left, a woman
copulating with a good-natured bull;
PERSONAGES: N.N. flushes the toilet,
lifts up the latch and, too late, notices
the last message scratched on the door CITIZEN


‘…The beauty of our daily life so takes one’s breath away,
‘that our more sensitive friends might well choke.
‘What is necessary in such a case?
‘Artificial respiration. What
‘should we do first of all? First of all
‘we must immobilise the tongue. Sometimes
‘the patient chokes on his own tongue.
‘We grab it therefore, with a clean hankie, for example,
‘and hold it. The custom
‘in less humanitarian times was
‘the effective albeit painful measure
‘of fastening tongue to lower lip
‘with a safety pin. What comes next?
‘Now we may move on to artificial
‘respiration. We know of three methods.
‘The first is pressure. What do we mean by
‘pressure? We’re speaking here of pressure applied
‘to the rib cage. No less popular is
‘the method known as hands up. Here, the hands
‘are rhythmically elevated
‘above the victim’s head. Success
‘is sure. And lastly, the method known as
mouth to mouth–unfortunately, the least
‘hygienic and effective on a mass scale.
‘That’s all for today. You’ve been listening
‘with bated breath
‘to the talkshow First Aid
‘for Everyone’


What do you really think? Yes, you. I speak
directly to your white teeth, your eyes, which
each day at seven-thirty pm
fill us with faith and trust: what do you think,
hiding there behind the screen and sheet of paper
from which you bring us happy tidings, moved
professionally? Do you believe
in what you read? Can it be you’ve forgotten
the truths of two of three four years ago?
perhaps you haven’t burned those pages up?
perhaps you stick them somewhere in a box?
Look them over when you have the time. You’ll laugh.
Your snow-white teeth will shine, which every night
at seven-thirty shine for us.
And how do you feel? Is it hot for you
there beneath truth’s limelight? A little close
there in your tie of springtime azure skies?
What do you think, you, writing articles
that it is and will be ever better?
I’m asking you. What do you really think?
Do you know what the cleaning lady thinks
about you when she’s polishing the floor
of the editorial room at five?
Does it not frighten you–no-one believes
you–or what’s worse–sometimes really do?
Perhaps in your spare time you write poetry
filled with the subtlety of your soul,
inner dissensions and so forth.
And yet tomorrow, back to work again
to think up some title–some masterpiece
of curt distinctness summing up the trial
of some threatening conspiracy–
some group of readers of wrong-thinking books.
That which you do someone else would do,
you’re right. But would they do it just as well?
As skillfully? With such a clever pen,
such talent, sureness, numbing like a shot?
What do you think, banging on the keys
of your typewriter the next delation–
the conversation which two collegues had
at your wife’s birthday party? Yes,
you, my friend. What do you really think?
You’re right, they pay you little. What you do,
you do from conviction, for an ideal.
But don’t you sometimes have nightmares
bordering on the Last Judgment, the day
when the archives and files will be
open to inspection?
The day on which your friend will shy away
and your child spit upon the ground you tread?
The day on which your two friends will return
from their long absence? No? Nothing of the sort?
You still can bang away on that machine,
faultlessly hammering out names and dates?
With the same fingers which you use
to lift bread to your mouth and
caress the body of your wife at night?
And yet you never wake up suddenly
soaked with a cold sweat?


And one more tired foothold
On ladder rungs well worn
And one more day of sameold
And one more little thorn

And one more daily flaying
One little pill each day
The same old worn-out saying
It’s got to be this way

It’s such a simply run game
You cheer a bit and lie
or clam up It’s all the same
Then go to sleep at night

And then again at daybreak
Rise Put your costume on
Vote Lie Inform and Forsake
That’s it And life goes on

Sleep well and swallow yawning
the new day’s bitter pill
Inject the still grey dawning
You need but veins and will

for one more tired foothold
on the ladder of days
and shortly you’ll be enscrolled
in some god’s book of praise

for all time aye forever
numbered among the blest
with cold grey skin of leather
and medals on your chest


It’s still not all that bad; one can still choose
each morning
between a brown shirt and a red necktie;
it’s still not all that bad,
you can still dress according to your taste;

it’s still not all that tight; there yet remains
quite a large distance
between the K-lag’s and the gulag’s wires;
it’s still not all that tight,
there’s so much room, that one can even dance;

it’s still not all that dark; the sunbeams still
pass through the bell jar,
and even quite a lot of air remains;
it’s still not all that bad,
the air suffices for a couple breaths,
but are they worth it
are they worth it


When one can’t introduce order
to the world
or to one’s own self,
one can at the very least introduce order
to the contents of one’s wallet:
extract from it one’s official ID, discharge
papers (unfit for service
in peace time) and Party swimmer’s card
(fit for swimming across the red sea
hell, fit for walking on water),
a photo of a child in white knickers (memento
of First Holy Communion), a reminder
of outstanding contributions, railway
tickets II Cl. Pass. Tr. unused
cafeteria coupons from the last supper
in the month of March, payment receipts
for the light of truth and waters of lustration,
copy of a request for accelerated flat
allotment directed through the official way of the cross
to the very top, tickets for football matches
(mementos of male communion), doctor’s excuse
(congenital lung defect, onset of asthma)
for not taking part
in a voluntary social action,
his picture from a First of May parade
with banner in left hand and in his right
an obsolete portrait,
a few love letters (memento of spiritual
communion), pictures from his church wedding,
receipt for a fold-out bed
(we’ll send you a notice when it comes in),
delegation vouchers, a lock
of woman’s hair;

place everything
in the ashtray, take out a match
and light the pyre.


I, a man in full possession of his faculties, employed, married, resident, never convicted,
I, born thrity-three years ago, in wartime, a war which never ended and never will,
I, who, concerning myself, know only that I’m of medium height and have no outstanding facial marks,
I, who, speaking of personal belongings have only an ID card in a pocket over my heart,
I, wakened at dawn by a question which I have never before demanded of myself,
I, pestered by voices which I have never heard before,
………….that no-one need be blamed for what has happened,

………….no-one but myself.


As if it always March or April were,
as if the dirty snow would always melt,
as if for all time on the street corner
the two young prostitutes took root, as if
for ages o’er the movie crowd
would flow out of the ‘Rainbow’ cinema,
as if from age the giant poster hand
blushed, stabbing at your eyes the message YOU
YOUR BLOOD, as if between the trees
for ages rocked the banners OUR GOAL
tugged by the impulse of the soggy breeze
above the street on which eternally
would cruise the car with speakers on its roof:

N.N. opens the window
Breathes deeply of the vinegar and gall.
The spear-like breath pierces his asthmatic breast.


Who’s not with us let him clear out fast
Life must take the kid gloves off at last
Wake up black and blue the fault is yours
Who’s not with us is no friend of ours

Marching off toward ever better years
Sucking in lungfuls of the atmosphere
To the side, you crowd of stinking whores
Who’s not with us is no friend of ours

Don’t think too much ass don’t stand aside
Shoulder-shoulder marching forward blind
Arm in arm storming the golden doors
Who’s not with us is no friend of ours


From the street’s perspective it looks perhaps
well, curious: a person climbing out
onto the outside windowsill, pulling
the window close behind him, as if he
wished to frustrate a return to the room.
Against the crossed windowframes, resting arms
along the embrasures, he looks like one
stretched out upon the cross or subjected
to artificial respiration.
The westing sun
reflects onto the glass above his head
a vermillion grandeur. Now he’ll jump. Now
the concrete walk will pull him from the cross.
The crowd of gapes begins to gesture.
One hears hysteric squeals.
Now he’ll jump.

He doesn’t jump.
Gropes with his palm outside
himself, opens the window clumsily,
slips back into the room on trembling legs.
Closes the window and bursts out crying.
Falls sobbing onto the bed. Spreads wide
his helpless arms. Lies
spread crosswise.


Over our heads and what was said
Over our days and smoky haze
Over our roofs and tired soughs
Night falls

Over the striving and over the stricken
Over delights and over despairs
Over queasy hours and cauchemars
Night falls

Over trembling Earth over hands a-tremble
Over pulsing towns over pulsing temples
Over throbbing hearts and throbbing bells
Night falls

Over the sweat of life, the sweat of death
Over furious tears, over tears helpless
Over the blood of lovers, the hopeless,
Night falls

Over surrender and over disagree
And over the self-conciliatory
Over freedom and over slavery
Night falls

Over stars over rainclouds over the breeze
Over light over gas over churning seas
Over him over me over us over thee
Night falls

Over all over desk over lamp over drapes
Over sleep over spoons over bowing napes
Over bedwhites over this white paper
Night falls

And tell me why tell is everywhere
Just the same will it always be here
Over factory roofs churches prisons where
Night falls

And tell me why do we close our eyes
our ears and why we put forth no cry
when covering the earth with its black rind
night falls

Why does her palm ever harder press
why is breathing air ever more scarce
when above us dark victorious
night falls

Why does she choke us why do we dream
that we won’t wake and wake with a scream
that ever will over winters springs
night fall

No-one answers over earth and city
over thy home thy room over thee
with dumb peace silent dishonesty
night falls

Over queasy hours and cauchemars
Over delights and over despairs
Over the striving and over the stricken
night falls

Over our roofs and tired soughs
Over our days and smoky haze
Over our heads and what was said
Night falls
Night falls
Night falls

(22 July 1977 – 1 May 1984)



3. Lines 27-28.
In these lines I have tried to approximate the quick punning of the Polish original, which reads:
łatwą wierność, łatwą bierność, łatwowierność.

WHAT THE FOREIGN, UNDER THY DIRECTION and WE JOIN US WITH are snippets from the Polish national anthem, Jeszcze Polska nie zginęła:

Co nam obca przemoc wzięła
Szablą odbierzemy

(What foreign power has taken from us
We will recover with the sword)

Pod twoim przewodem
Złączym się z narodem

(Under thy direction/i.e. Gen. Dąbrowski’s/
We join us with the nation)

The last four lines of this poem in Polish read:

Sprawa jest prosta. Zatem
żyjmy dłużej w kraju rad
Drżyjmy dłużej w raju krat
w kraju radosnym i mrożnym.

(It’s as simple as that. Therefore,
let’s live longer in the Land of Soviets
quiver longer in Land of Prison Bars
in the gay and frosty land.)

22. Line 5; 23. Line 5
…..In the first case, ‘ID’ is my translation for the Polish legitymacja służbowa. Many Polish citizens (students, state workers, etc.) possess legitymacje, on the basis of which certain privileges are afforded the bearer. The holder of a legitymacja studencka, for example, was entitled to half-fares on the mass transit system in the entire country.
…..In the second case, ‘ID’ is my translation for the Polish dowód osobisty, or ‘personal document’, which is a sort of national ID in passport-form which every citizen of the Polish People’s Republic over the age of eighteen was required to carry with him at all times. It contains personal statistics, such as height, weight, marital status, photo, etc.

27. Date
…..July 22 was a Polish national holiday instituted after the war by the Socialist government. Called the ‘Holiday of Poland Reborn’ (‘Święto Polski Odrodzonej‘), following five years of Nazi occupation. It hearkens back to 22 July 1944, when the Soviet-sponsored ‘Lublin government’ published its July Manifesto which, among other things, refused recognition of the legal Polish government in exile (London), instituted sweeping social and agrarian reforms, and declared a permanent partnership to be in effect between the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic, the U.S.S.R. and Poland.


Stanisław Barańczak

Stanisław Barańczak was born in Poznań, Poland, in 1946. He is one of the most linguistically inventive of contemporary Polish poets, with a fondness for wordplay and punning that rivals the poets of the Baroque age, many of whom (including John Donne and George Herbert) he has translated into Polish.  Barańczak received his doctorate in 1973, with a dissertation on the avant-garde postwar poet Miron Białoszewski. He taught in the Department of Polish Philology of the University of Poznań until he was dismissed on account of his activity in the Committee for the Defense of Workers (KOR), a precursor of Solidarity. In 1981, he was appointed Alfred J. Jurzykowski Professor of Polish Literature at Harvard University, where he taught for many years. Besides Sztuczne oddychanie (Artificial Respiration, 1978), he has authored some fifteen volumes of original verse, and many more translations into Polish of Anglo-American classics, including E.E. Cummings and Gerard Manley Hopkins. He has translated nearly all of Sharkespeare's plays into Polish, which have been staged with great success. He is the author of many valuable works in literary criticism and theory. His consideration of the poetry of Zbigniew Herbert, Fugitive from Utopia, is available in English. Recipient of many literary awards, Barańczak has also been decorated by the homeland his activity helped to free from Soviet domination; he is a Commander of the Order of Poland Reborn (Order Odrodzenia Polski).

Charles S. Kraszewski

Charles S. Kraszewski was born in 1962. Poet, translator, and literary historian, his most recent books are Irresolute Heresiarch: Catholicism, Gnosticism and Paganism in the Poetry of Czesław Miłosz (CSP, 2012) and On the Eternal Happiness of the Saints (IJS, 2012), a translation of St. Robert Bellarmine's De Aeterna Felicitate Sanctorum. He has authored two volumes of original poetry: Beast (Plan B Press, 2013) and Diet of Nails (Červená barva, forthcoming in May, 2013). Also to appear in 2013 is Rossetti's Armadillo, a collection of his verse translations from various languages. He also frequently publishes in the Polish quarterly Odra, primarily on the Anglo-American Modernists. Recently, his verse translations into Polish of Eliot's Choruses from The Rock appeared there. Excerpts from his translation of Tedi López Mills' Death on Rúa Augusta appeared in the March 2013 edition of InTranslation.

Sztuczne oddychanie. Copyright (c) Stanisław Barańczak, 1978. English translation copyright (c) Charles S. Kraszewski, 2013.