Image credit: Kevin McNamee-Tweed, "Untitled," clay

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A Red Bow

Things like to imitate their former owners:

this red bow (dropped by a woman

fleeing in panic before the storm)

 

is blooming in the grass among artificial

flowers. Puffed up like a coquette,

has it finally found its place?

 

Ryōgen-In

Do not ask for directions to the stone

gardens of Ryōgen-in.

You’ll be told: Go straight, then

turn left.

Which can mean: Turn back and

go down the stairs.

Forget the map of Kyoto

for a while.

Stand still and take a deep

breath.

Think what really made you

want to go there.

It may be the gardens themselves

will come to you.

 

The Spider from Hakone

If you kill it or leave it

in peace,

 

you will fall asleep

faster.

 

Home

Every late morning men in black coats

gather in front of it.

They stand on the stairs in silence and smoke long cigarettes.

 

Then they ring the doorbell.

They wait a few minutes and walk away.

Next day, they appear again.

 

Dressed in black, they stand on the stairs in silence,

inhale the smoke, ring the doorbell.

Everything always happens at the same pace.

 

Nobody ever opens the door.



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Czerwona Kokarda

Rzeczy lubią naśladować swoich starych właścicieli:

Ta czerwona kokarda (zgubiona przez kobietę

uciekającą w popłochu przed burzą)

 

Kwitnie teraz w trawie pośród innych sztucznych

kwiatów. Napuszona jak kokietka, czyżby w końcu

odnalazła swoje miejsce?

 

Ryōgen-In

Nie pytaj nigdy o drogę do kamiennych

ogrodów Ryōgen-in.

Powiedzą ci: Idź prosto, a potem

skręć w lewo.

Co oznaczać może: Cofnij się i

udaj się schodami w dół.

Zapomnij więc choć przez chwilę

o mapie Kioto.

Stań nieruchomo w miejscu i weź głęboki

wdech.

Zastanów się, po co tak naprawdę

chciałeś tam trafić.

Może się zdarzyć, że ogrody same

przywędrują do ciebie.

 

Pająk z Hakone

Jeśli go zabijesz lub pozostawisz

w spokoju –

 

łatwiej ci będzie

usnąć.

 

Dom

Każdego przedpołudnia zbierają się przed nim

mężczyźni w czarnych płaszczach.

Stoją w milczeniu na schodach i palą długie papierosy.

 

Potem dzwonią do drzwi.

Czekają kilka minut i rozchodzą się.

Pojawiają się ponownie następnego dnia.

 

Ubrani na czarno, stoją w milczeniu na schodach,

zaciągają się, dzwonią.

Wszystko odbywa się zawsze w tym samym tempie.

 

Nikt im nigdy nie otwiera drzwi.

Translator Notes

Born in Poland in 1962 and living in Copenhagen since 1985, Grzegorz Wróblewski is one of Poland’s major contemporary writers. The Polish versions of these poems first appeared in Wróblewski’s collection Pomieszczenia i ogrody (Warszawa: Biblioteka Narodowa, 2005). In translating these poems into English I tried to capture the mixture of directness and strangeness that makes Wróblewski’s verse so distinctive. His poems pay close attention to their surroundings, yet they are often ambiguous, enigmatic, weird; their very lucidity produces a sense of mystery. Even a relatively straightforward poem like “Home” seems full of existential meaning. As Wróblewski himself explains, “It’s about the unknown, about how we circle around something we think important, perhaps, but always inaccessible. We constantly face the same problems and dilemmas. We get close to solving them, but never get the full answer. This stimulates or destroys us.” “A Red Bow” is an example of Wróblewski’s tendency to imbue inanimate objects with consciousness. The author again: “Unusual details, accidental situations, occasionally produce an emotional response or at least a reflection in me. I feel bad, for example, when I see someone kicking a piece of furniture or throwing a bottle – all those stray remnants of thoughtless consumerism. Perhaps this is due to the fact that I’m also a visual artist. Different forms and colors, while they may be of little importance to others, can have a big impact on me.” The last two poems in this series reveal Wróblewski’s fascination with Japan. “Ryōgen-in” was inspired by the famous Buddhist temple in Kyoto, while “The Spider from Hakone” was composed during a few days he spent in that town at the foot of Mount Fuji in 2001. As Wróblewski states in reference to these poems: “Clarity is hard to capture. Harder than even the most advanced metaphysical divagations.”


Piotr Gwiazda

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