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A Poem by Maria Jastrzebska


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

A Poem by Andrena Zawinsksi

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.

Oh heart

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;

babushka brigades

in the rail yards, on the blacktop,

in the maternity wards

of atomic angels

with cheeks in-drawn

for the future

of plutonium.

Oh Ukraine

that was Poland

of my sweet beets and cabbage.

Industrious Poland

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.

Oh meltdown

that was Russia.

Russia of my caviar and vodka,

of food strike and riot.

Oh diligent Russia

of the vigilant children

who sing classrooms

with canticles

of Pushkin and Marx,

eyes fixed on the reddest star.

Oh Motherland

from whose womb

orphaned cadets

turn dreams skyward

past the moon.

Oh the pines of poetry.

Oh Chernobyl

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.

Oh horror.

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")

( Andrena Zawinsksi )

A Poem by Lisa L. Siedlarz

Simple Steps

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.

( More poems by Lisa L. Siedlarz )

One  Poem  by Colleen McKee


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

Annual Oplatek

Last night the winds were kicking up around St. Hedwig,

sending dead leaves flying, debris into corners, and whipping our hair

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 smell

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 drew,

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, flat sky,

rolled over us like a white ruffle-sleeved coat

asking where is the light

and where

are you.

(One more poem by Laurie A. Gomulka Palazzolo)

A Poem by  Anna Maria Mickiewicz


The sound of lawnmowers, global, pervasive, mundane, universal.

I escape.

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 headscarf.

She positions a plastic pail upside down, jumps about on it like a child.

She sinks up to her waist in the refuse, searching deeper and deeper.

She capsizes the container by force, throwing out bags, scraps of material.

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 their glare.

Anna Maria Mickiewicz )

A poem by Lillian Vallee

Belle Isle

People pity me

When I say

I grew up in Detroit

I hear them thinking

Asphalt jungle

Urban jungle

Ghetto poor

While I see

Belle Isle

Fountain jets

Casino steps

Floral clock

And petting zoo

Letting my sister

Go first to test the ice

(She fell through)

Sunday beaches

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

Under blankets

Ah, Belle Isle

More Poems by Lillian Vallee)

A poem by Linda Nemec Foster

Portrait of the Dead

Two things surround and inhabit the city of Warsaw: the green of
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 mark the
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 embrace his
astonished mother. The ghosts don't know the details of these stories. They
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 faces blank,
upturned, totally oblivious to the reticent camera.

( More poems by Linda Nemec Foster)

A Poem by  Stephen Lewandowski


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 dogwood brush.

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?

( Melisa Cahnmann-Taylor)

A Poem by Peter Burzynski ( In Polish language)


akurat jestem

w domu

pierwszy raz

juz koniec

tej konajacej


dom to nie

dom bez wlasnego

potu i blamu.

twarde jak

twarz. wracam.

z jezykiem bogatym

i kieszeniami

biednymi chodze

po samotnych

ale niesamowitych

kamiennych ulicach.

ledwo zapomnialem

jak chodzic

po ulicach

ale dzis


stopy ciagle

brudne jak

stara nagrobna

plyta. czuje sie

jak wielki

blyszczacy szczur.

ale juz



do mojego


Krakow, 2006

The poem Wracam translated into English:


I am indeed

back home

for the first time

the end a dying


has come.

a home is not

a home without

one's own

sweat and fiber.


as a face. I return

with a heavy tongue

and empty

pockets I roam

the lonely

extraordinary stone


I barely forgot

how to walk

on streets,

but today

I've returned.

soles constantly

tranished like

an old gravestone.

I feel like a great



but now

I've returned

I've returned

to my


* (Kochanowski's home; a place synonymous with poetic inspiration)

(Peter Burzynski)

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