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To read Leonard's translation of Milosz ______

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Tadeusz Borowski (1922-51)


Translated from Polish byKress Leonard Kress      


Summer in Town(Lato w miasteczku)

     I walk to town to see it one last time. The church above the shingled roofs, two goats attacking hillside grass along the gouged-out steps. No one flings back the iron gate to cross the threshold, but on one cupola, a tin weathercock, black reminder of Peter's denial, swings wildly.
     A traveling circus is setting up. On top of the tent, a speaker, cracking like a chaffcutter, proclaims a love song. The carousel revolves—horses impaled on fenceposts rise and fall, never able to escape the traders or the harness. Beyond the camel, llama, and twin jackals, young girls squeal at the organ-grinder's parrot, drawing chances with its beak.
     The breeze whips every ribbon, billows tarps and dresses, until everything looks plump and well-fed. Bombed-out houses surround the square. I stare at a willow drenched in light, providing shade for a red-faced priest pacing the rectory garden. As he walks, unplucked, over-ripe raspberries squander their juices, blotting his cassock, while his lips twist into silence ancient moans bound in the grainy leather of his Psalter. I watch him gorge, stretching his face as if into a feedbag.
     Crowds begin to shuffle through the market stalls. Some are applauding the tightrope walkers announcing their own act, the trammel dance. The priest's eyes don't stray; he won't even peek across the square. Dropping his book, he clasps his fingers beneath his mounded belly. I follow his gaze—up to the balustrade of the rectory, to a clothesline strung from window shutters, where garments sway in the breeze. Sheer and willow green, carmine, blue, and black—a blouse, nightgown, stockings. Like someone interrupted, I think, in the middle of changing for a party.


Pullman Journey (Podroz pulmanem)

     “We're pulling in,,” he says, “you haven't budged since Krakow.,” We clatter over switchings, swerve to a different track between freight cars loaded down with wood, machinery, and coal. I spot the semaphore's cautious flags and we brake. Across the track are wagons decked out with twigs and leafy branches. There are people inside, and cows shoving their thin snouts through the gratings, bony horses rubbing against the walls.
     In front of them, irons stoves are smoking and old babas in wide skirts gather by huge pots. Men wash themselves. Chickens peck the dung. A barefoot girl hugs an armful of hay, her braids flapping against her back.
     “I talked to them,,” he says. “My God, it's been a least two months since they left the camp. They have no idea. The borders have changed, they say.”
     The train jerks into motion again. We pull into a platform bridge in town. Stairways crammed with bundles, filthy travelers dozing against each other. An orchestra readies to play—railroad workers in uniform. With his baton the conductor draws out of them Poland has not yet perished. . .
     “My God,,” he says, wrapping himself in a blanket. “Will you make it?,”
     Schoolgirls approach the train, distributing carnations through the windows. Ladies wearing peaked white caps like wedding headpieces pas in mugs of cocoa and fresh rolls and butter. The tubercular children quarantined in the next car swarm over, shoving playfully to see. “It's not their stop,” he says. Their tiny hands clap forcefully.