To read Jastrun’s poetry in the Polish originals.


Dzvinia Orlowsky’s poetry in this issue.

Dzvinia Orlowsky’s poetry and feature in a previous issue.


Contributor Notes

10 Poems

Mieczysław Jastrun

by Mieczysław Jastrun

Translated by Dzvinia Orlowsky and Jeff Friedman
10 poems by Mieczysław Jastrun









Among the planets prowled a Tiger.

Will He throw Christians to the lions,

the Jews, or the Greeks?
Who gives Him strength?
Night sparks the fire

flashing in orbit.

From now on there will be a circle orbiting in the Universe
over the heads and feet of those

caught in the quotidian.

And here the lamb pale with barb.

Here the dove—Earth as Easter egg.

Here Columbus’s Children serve it on the table
in cups.








Chrysanthemums, purple
with anger almost disappeared in shadow —
dark red with green leaves

in the scarred attic.

when you shut your eyes

what do you feel

with your novice skin?

When you open them,

fire fringes the sky,

red icons flaring.

But what are the names,
the colors of the blind?
We know the names for plant and animal
but we’re all clothed in our own smell,

locked in our own vision.

I can’t see or feel faith
in these extravagances,

only death.







Knife with Red Shaft

Don’t lose focus—

Put it back in the bottom drawer!
It drives with a sudden twist
Through the hand
Held in air,
Then turns toward the breast—
And from the hand, falls
And falls
Pulled by gravity.

Hand—compelled to strike—

Do you need an angel?







Before Departure

Clasp hands with the cup of tea.

The fingertips burn

as the aroma spills

into the veins of the sun,

the cup slowly approaching the edge
of your lips as if you wanted
to embrace this hot kiss all summer long.

And this time silence
buzzes in the roots of the flower

while a bumblebee waits

neglected under the window, and space

grows emptier

in an empty glass—the world

four folded pages.

I took a last sip of summer.









Only a grain,
because truth itself is a room

large as death.
I don’t speak for the Hereafter.

Only a piece or a morsel,
except the rain baptizing the spring morning
when the dream opens our heavy eyelids....

Only a blackbird,
only one blade —
but in its own dark eye.








Scratched Glass

After the bird claws the glass,
I enter night.
Stars whistle in my ear.

An entire universe
in this star—this nail


into the airless question.


Earth keeps

time with my blood.

My brow lifts,

my eyes not beasts

but stars.


I am the first

name in the dream,

the same slot as









Dawn beats its black wings

but that might not signal the coming of day.

The beating wings express more than fear

of greed and predators.


I run from window to window

as if sewing the wings to dawn,

but lightning rips the sky with its needle.


All I’ve seen, predicted—

what could still surprise me?

I jump at the light breaking through the shade,


pinched frame where blue
trembles like a bird where a black cross
descends, attracting glazed eyes.


Or has the word become flesh?
The crime was not the word of God,

which survives bullets and fire.









In the garden dry sticks

fed the fire and a crowbar

stoked it. Late evening

trash burned

in the garden.


Overhead, the universe

revealed itself.


Unafraid, my heart leapt for joy

as the skipping of a jump rope

lead me back to childhood.


Fire Healer,

feast your eyes.

I’ve recovered the night sun.


Tattered man in rags, Heraclitus

equal of the gods

dry brush, old papers

stuffed in a pit

toss in a cheerful match.







No Place

This man says yes,
fear in the air

of those who enclose him.

Later he lies

face to ground—

a bullet through his head.

For centuries, it is the same—

the man with a hole in his head,

but with a different face.

His friends turn him in

without hesitation

giving the executioner

all the evidence he needs.

No longer threatened,

the family leaves the palm

of the valley and assumes its place

on the hill with three birches.









Iron clangs through the gray twilight.

The country mobilizes behind squadron fire.

Troops swell as welders work on the rail,

a light shining in the explosion.

Miraculously loaves of delicious bread

multiply. Plates, shattered glass,

metal, newspapers, chunks of pavement, records,

crowds with a single face—only one

female artist exhibits her work,

displays what she sees.


Each time is distinct
but also part of something larger

like a staircase.

Each moment gives while another

receives in the play of civilization.

Day started as if it had ended,

a white streak after a jet,
a tomb in the air after the bang.

Between distances, the horizon breaks.

A wave carries dead fish,

rivers navigating toward death,
civilizations underground rising

toward the bodies of their mothers.