From Somewhere

 

Everybody wandered in from somewhere

riding sailing

 

on foot

on horseback

by boat

others broke through

the sea of red reeds

 

it was someone’s land

no man’s land

merciful cruel

burnt by the sun

swept by the snow

 

to buy

steal

redeem

by axe

sacrifice

or rapture

2008

**
 

Memento mori

 

A man gets on a bus

Will this take me

to 86th Street?

How trusting

the passenger

how trusting

the one who answers.



30 May 2002

 

 **

 

In Lublin

 

                     For Bogusław Wróblewski

 

The walls, grown over again with wild

vines

memory, grown over again with oblivion

the curtain flows out the window

to who knows where

and on the stone steps

faded unfadeable

footsteps

leading still

inside.



Lublin, 12 June 2008

 

**

To a friend in Haifa

 

Mediterranean Sea in the window

and who needs more

why does the North return

—Arcadia austere

why here

where every bud takes root

still you’re like a seed

that fell on stone.



June 1991

 

**
 

And skin turns ever thinner

like paper, like brittle

parchment

it won’t heal any longer

and can’t be stitched up

such happened with

my mother’s skin

when, having had it up to here,

she injured her leg on the run

from herself

yet her whole life through she sewed

her needle stitching silk linen

wool and even

dyed bits of leather

her pen stitching

Lwow Kirghizia Szczecin

her memory nearly stitching

two shores of life

but those

like two shores of an ocean

can’t be stitched together

 

shores diverge

seams rupture

the needle breaks

as does the pen

but memory turns

ever thinner

like paper

like brittle parchment.



29 October 2011 

 

**

Reading “Encounter” by Czesław Miłosz



For Czesław Miłosz


He asked in wonder

where is the one who gestured

and where is the hare

who ran across the rustling pebbles

toward the grace of salvation

 

now they ask out of sorrow

where is the one

who saved

what remains whole

even as it turns to dust…



5 September 2004

 

**
                       

                                    For Stefania Kossowska

 

Life left us at its corners

set us down somewhere to the side

and ran lightly on ahead

keeps rolling on without us

but us?

life’s buds and leaves

but us?

life’s rustling canopy

heavy

golden apples

stones

scattered

along the road.

 



Original ↓

Każdy skądś

 

Każdy skądś przywędrował

przyjechał przypłynął

 

pieszo

na koniu

łodzią

tamci przedarli się

przez morze czerwonych trzcin

 

a ziemia była czyjaś

niczyja

miłosierna okrutna

wypalona słońcem

zawiana śniegiem

 

do kupienia

do zagrabienia

do odkupienia

siekierą

ofiarą

zachwytem

 

2008

** 

 

Memento mori

 

Człowiek wsiada do autobusu

Do 86-tej

czy dojadę?

Jaki ufny ten

który wsiada

jaki ufny ten

co odpowiada.



30 maja 2002

 

**

 

W Lublinie

 

Bogusławowi Wróblewskiemu

 

Mury znów porosły dzikim

winem

pamięć znów porosła niepamięcią

firanka wybiega z okna

nie wiadomo dokąd

a na kamiennych schodach

wytarte niezatarte

ślady

wciąż jeszcze prowadzą

wgłąb.



Lublin, 12 czerwca 2008

 

 **

 

Do przyjaciela w Haifie

  

Śródziemne Morze w oknie

i co więcej trzeba

czemu północ powraca

–      Arkadia surowa

czemu tutaj

gdzie każdy pęd puszcza korzenie

ty wciąż jak ziarno

które spadło na kamienie.



czerwiec 1991

 

**

 

A potem skóra staje się coraz cieńsza

jak papier jak zleżały

pergamin

i już nie może się zrosnąć

i nie można jej zszyć

tak stało się ze skórą

mojej matki

kiedy mając już dość tego wszystkiego

zraniła nogę  uciekając

przed samą sobą

a przecież szyła całe życie

igłą zszywała jedwab wełnę

płótno i nawet

farbowane kawałki skóry

piórem zszywała

Lwów Kirgizję i Szczecin

pamięcią starała się zszyć

dwa brzegi życia

ale te

jak dwa brzegi oceanu

zszyć się nie dają

 

rozbiegają się brzegi

rozrywają się ściegi

łamie się igła

i pióro

a pamięć staje się

coraz cieńsza

jak papier

jak zleżały pergamin.



29 października 2011

 

**

 

Czytając "Spotkanie" Czesława Miłosza



Pamięci Czesława Miłosza

 

Pytał “z zamyślenia”

gdzie jest ten co wskazywał

i gdzie jest ten zając

przez “szelest grud” biegnący

w łaskę ocalenia

 

teraz “z żalu” pytają

gdzie ten

co ocalił

to co zostaje całe

kiedy w proch się zmienia…



5 września 2004

 

**
 

Pani Stefanii Kossowskiej

Rozstawiło nas życie po kątach

zostawiło gdzieś na uboczu

i przed siebie pobiegło sprężyście

bez nas dalej się toczy

a my ?

jak pąki i liście

a my ?

jego szumiąca korona

jego jabłka ciężkie

złociste

kamienie

po drogach

rzucone.

Translator's Note

Anna Frajlich’s poetry is rich with the language of exile and wandering, and frequently evokes lost landscapes and the gnawing persistence of memory. These characteristics alone would hardly set her apart from the crowd – and the ranks of émigré poets are not small, nor are they unimpressive. What makes Frajlich such a unique and important poet is that, notwithstanding the bitter fruits of post-war Poland and life post-Poland, the overarching theme of her work is love. Poems such as “In Lublin” and “Memento mori,” despite their pathos, never indulge in despair, though they could easily be forgiven for doing so. Even in her early years, Frajlich was an incredibly mature poet: rather than raging at the world, she showed us how to repurpose what can be salvaged from the wreckage of life.

In Anna Frajlich’s created world, cities act as conduits through space and time, and every encounter carries the patina of a previous life. In this sense, she is truly an “émigré poet’s poet.” Forced from her homeland, Frajlich takes up residence in her native language abroad, to participate in a literary tradition that is equally comfortable alluding to Homer and Dante, Shakespeare and Mickiewicz, Virginia Woolf and Georgia O’Keeffe. But instead of elevating these voices to the height of myth, Frajlich enlists them as her fellow travelers, constructing vibrant triangles of dialogue among the lyric I, her fellow artists, and the reader, to station them like road signs along the highways of the contemporary world.

“Sensitivity is Anna Frajlich’s poetic domain,” wrote one critic. Geography, a more secular domain, plays an important role in her work, as one might expect from a poet of her biography, and the poems presented here display Frajlich’s lyrical range as well as her transnational one. Locations of her past and the past of others appear on the page as the ruins of former worlds. But there is a beauty in ruins beyond their desolation, and it is this valence, I believe, that Frajlich succeeds so well in accessing: future civilizations spring up from the ruins of previous ones. “…Two shores of the ocean / can’t be stitched together,” she writes. But she never stops trying.

As a translator I am incredibly lucky to work with Anna Frajlich, and am grateful for her kindness, generosity, and, of course, talent.

 

From the poet:

With the last poem [To a friend in Haifa], a little anecdote. It was written for a friend who left Poland in 1958, whom I never expected to see again, but whom I met again in 1991.

At the same time in Israel I was introduced to a prominent Polish poet Stanisław Wygodzki, whom I'd never met before even though he was responsible for my 1958 debut at 16. During the war his family took the poison, but tragically he survived and woke up, only to have lost his little daughter and wife. Despite having some fame and a new family in Poland, he left in 1968 for what proved to be a very difficult period in Israel. After reading this poem of mine, he said: to ja, to ja jestem "to ziarno, które spadło na kamienie." [That's me, I'm "the seed that fell onto stone."]


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