There was a smell before I was born.
It came across fields
dotted with sows, above yards
where thin chickens scratched
in the dust, past cordons
of pines, scaring out quails.
It was stronger than the smog
of Nowa Huta, which eats away
stone faces and newborn lungs.
How could you miss it
when it rose from chimney stacks
along that flat skyline
or blew over rivers and broken
telegraph wires to spread
above schools and church spires?
Ladies dabbed Chanel Number 5
on their fox furs to ward it off -
gents lit the fattest cigars.
Gents with made-up eyes, ladies
with shingled hair and monocles
danced rumbas and milongas
but overnight they vanished.
Not even alcohol or opium
could dispel it - the smell
stayed in the air.
Soon everyone coughed.
Some politely, some not.
More Poems by Maria Jastrzebska)
Triptych of Three Pines
...As the train is going, leaving,
Going in another direction: we are ceasing to belong
To each other or this house...What is wrong?
from "Autumn in Sigulda" by Andrei Voznesensky
At Chernobyl, scientific cowboys
ride the nuclear plain,
whiprods like batons
against the bleak backdrop
in a fugue for fusion.
And in the pit, I find myself
singing: Oh Chernobyl,
oh molten core
of radiation sickness.
of the Ukraine.
Ukraine of my bread and potatoes,
of my grandfathers
coal and iron ore
at the borders where
Cossacks kicked up heels
beneath the birch and ash;
in the rail yards, on the blacktop,
in the maternity wards
of atomic angels
with cheeks in-drawn
for the future
that was Poland
of my sweet beets and cabbage.
of horse-drawn plow, of tank,
of the restless workers voice
winging bare fields the beaks gouged,
of gypsy hoboes traveling light
the Alpine heights,
of 3,440,000 Jewfish hooked
on rifle butts at the edge,
of 90,000 who sang out
on the raven's half-life caw,
of Catholics at the fiery altars,
turbine power glowing
in Kilowatts and kopecs
above empty store shelves.
Oh Poles in Kiev.
Oh Bolsheviks in Warsaw.
Oh ghetto under the bomb of Germany.
that was Russia.
Russia of my caviar and vodka,
of food strike and riot.
Oh diligent Russia
of the vigilant children
who sing classrooms
of Pushkin and Marx,
eyes fixed on the reddest star.
from whose womb
turn dreams skyward
past the moon.
Oh the pines of poetry.
under a sarcophagus of geigers
cricketing night corridors
through catacombs of grief.
Oh time of trouble
of twentieth century disaster.
Oh panic button
of American engagement,
of Nagasaki and Hiroshima,
of 3-Mile Island and Love Canal,
of this atomic dawn
where none of us belong.
Credit: These lines are from Andrei Voznesensky:
atomic angel with cheeks in-drawn ("Wall of Death")
fields the beaks gouged ("I Am Goya")
hoboes traveling light ("Homeless")
A Poem by Lisa L. Siedlarz
I brought Gail home for lunch. Grade school;
Black Panthers meant African animals,
but porch monkeys and eggplants, my family
called bad news. My heart clubbed.
Dad looked up from TV and I introduced
my black friend.
Shadows filled his face, yet he was silent.
Not like the day he and Grandpa,
and Uncle Don chased coons out of our
Polish neighborhood, Get out of here
you filthy sons of bitches.
Irony is a fire pit ember.
Dumb and Polacks mated in mouths
of those outside our neighborhood. Still
my relatives' veins bled hate. Gail, who
never called me dumb, held my hand tight
as kin in Red Rover games as we called out,
dared others to break through.
poems by Lisa L. Siedlarz )
One Poem by
Because of my vague belief that showing up matters,
I showed up, though I could not hope
For peace. I stood around at the rally.
The cold mist scratched my skin. I was numb
From the neverending war,
Listening to three speeches
I'd heard three times before.
I sighed, and wrung my hands,
Slunk home, and ran a bath.
I lit a pair of crimson candles,
Placed them on the porcelain rim.
I wasn't really praying, only aiming
Not to feel defeat.
I stared into the water,
My skin licked red by steam...
It's strange, I think of Warszawa
Every time I bathe,
It snowing there in May,
And only weak cold water
Sputtering from the nozzle,
All radiators rusted shut,
And sleeping in two coats,
And slate-faced women, stoically
Selling tulips in the snowy rain
From little white buckets, on Mother's Day
On the corner of Nowy Swiat, named
For the new, new world.
(Colleen McKee )
A Poem by
Laurie A. Gomulka Palazzolo
Last night the winds were kicking up around St. Hedwig,
sending dead leaves flying, debris into corners, and whipping
in our faces.
Inside, at the Annual Oplatek, gusts came through
the window, a December whirlwind flying into the
Heritage Room, across the old wood of the furniture,
scattering papers and knocking over the stacks of Styrofoam
coffee cups into the puddle of coffee spilling from the spigot
of the large silver coffee urn.
Faster than I could turn to lower the dark brown-framed
window the white plastic tablecloth was covered, liquid
running helter-skelter like crazed mercury.
The guests swarmed, poured into the warm room like ants,
drawn by the light of the glowing candy-striped candles and the
of raspberry and custard paczki and freshly brewed coffee, sugar
cubes, Christmas cookies on trays
with white lace-like doilies.
Powdered sugar and crushed pecans melted together.
Butter cookies sprinkled with colored granulated sugar,
marshmallow-covered corn flakes dyed
holly green with cinnamon berries pressed into them, Polish
chocolate-covered cherries blended
against walls lined with internally lit glass cabinetry filled
with relics and saints' faces, names of sodality orders,
alliances and guilds embroidered in gold onto the satin fabric
of ancient religious banners.
In the corner, Queen Jadwiga of Poland hung in regal silence.
Past Diamond Forest the fog was a woman, white,
the milky gown swirling, rolling across the black roadway
like the swell of a wave.
She came from every which direction on feet that floated and
crawled in a filmy, peddling motion as if ascending from beneath
the earth, some awakened Terpsichore, rising,
rising, moving over the white car
in blind, arrhythmic escalation,
summoning Uranus' unleavened souls.
From four corners she pulled wafer-thin ghosts from the long,
rolled over us like a white ruffle-sleeved coat
asking where is the light
more poem by Laurie A. Gomulka Palazzolo)
A Poem by Anna Maria Mickiewicz
The sound of lawnmowers, global, pervasive, mundane, universal.
By the refuse containers, an old woman.
From a distance you can see her diminutive figure, summer lacing
shoes, flowing dress with collar, on her head a pink steelon
She positions a plastic pail upside down, jumps about on it like
She sinks up to her waist in the refuse, searching deeper and
She capsizes the container by force, throwing out bags, scraps
She hangs on the metal lips of the its green jaws, keeping her
balance by waggling her legs. Net shopping bags on the tarmac.
A blond with a little dog looks on, she wants to go up and
investigate, take a peek, check what's in the shopping bags.
She looks around. People are returning from work.
You can't just go up and pry.
The old woman loses her balance, a vigorous movement of the legs
doesn't help, she clings on the pail, sways.
Luckily she soon regains her original position.
She carefully puts her feet down.
She jumps out, puts the black bags into the pail, and the rest
into a shopping bag with the logo "Boss".
She leaves briskly, looking ahead of her.
The tired lawnmowers wheeze in the sweat of their brow with
what's left of their strength.
The sun, its yellowy red rays at full force, decides to dim
Maria Mickiewicz )
by Lillian Vallee
People pity me
When I say
I grew up in Detroit
I hear them thinking
While I see
And petting zoo
Letting my sister
Go first to test the ice
(She fell through)
Hot dogs from home
And a clean river
That looked like the sea
To me, so blue and sweet
You could see your feet
Every summer Sunday morning
Before the necking
Began in the groves
Ah, Belle Isle
Poems by Lillian Vallee)
A poem by Linda Nemec Foster
Portrait of the Dead
Two things surround and inhabit the city of Warsaw: the
the summer trees and the constant spirits of the dead. Each
ghost stands guard
over each trunk as if it were a silent witness, not of history,
but the smaller
miracles of existence. How a tree gathers the inner rings that
passing of each year: harsh white of winter becoming soft
green of spring.
How a child, once feared dead, reappears at his front door to
astonished mother. The ghosts don't know the details of these
only know their sentinel duty: pilgrims in the vast green spaces
of a once
dead city. Leaning into the branches' shadows. Scattered like
seeds on the
city's horizon. Posing like icons in a group portrait. Their
upturned, totally oblivious to the reticent camera.
( More poems by Linda Nemec Foster)
A Poem by
They stand on a rise beside the
creek, a place protected against strong winds: five closely
grown, mature trees in a thicket, their branches interlaced and
roots interlocked, all overgrown with wild grape. Several large
branches have been wrenched off and lie like wreckage in the
One warm afternoon in January, I walk down for a closer look at
the trees I have watched for years. Wild grape can be cut at
ground level. Climbing a beech with a bow saw slung over my
shoulder creates a virtual cat's-cradle. My breath catches in my
glasses, fogging the work a little, but I trim snags clean away,
leaving no place for wet wood to bloom rot. Several times while
busy sawing I stop to say, “What a beautiful tree!” and I'm not
just talking to myself.
Snags cleared out of the tree litter the ground. Dead beechwood
bleaches pearl gray in the sun. Cut and gathered up, it splits
easily to a tangy violet center and burns in a bed of bright
coals, good wood for heat enduring through the night.
Someone has sought to save a moment of 1933 by pricking the
numbers in the live skin on the flank of the largest tree. Every
year the tattooed numbers grow larger; today I can barely cover
them with one hand.
As the sun sinks, I consider making my home up in a holy grove
of trees whose branches grow and spread until their weight bears
them down, whose roots surface through the soil like the backs
of dolphins, like water swirling around those creatures.
(More poems by Stephen Lewandowski )
A Poem by Melisa Cahnmann-Taylor
My friend clicks through pictures of salt mines,
storybook rooftops, beet soup,
pierogis by the dozen. Such a deal
traveling there, bed and breakfasts less
than half what it would cost to visit slave
plantations in Charleston, half the time
and airfare to resorts near India's
brothels. From the gate he captured
snapshots of barracks, lines of tourists
waiting to be refused
cameras inside. His return flight
stopped in London where he marched
with British protestors bearing signs, "We're all
Hezbollah." Admission free:
London's National Gallery, Auschwitz.
I asked him to tell me again, how much
one pays for fried lard, sour rye soup? How much
to visit the graves, what's left of the shallow,
salty, underground sea?
A Poem by Peter Burzynski ( In Polish language)
dom to nie
dom bez wlasnego
potu i blamu.
z jezykiem bogatym
plyta. czuje sie
The poem Wracam translated into English:
I am indeed
for the first time
the end a dying
a home is not
a home without
sweat and fiber.
as a face. I return
with a heavy tongue
pockets I roam
I barely forgot
how to walk
an old gravestone.
I feel like a great
* (Kochanowski's home; a place synonymous with poetic