from KM 2005

1 Rynek, Morning
Michal paints my face in watercolour.
Jolanta looks on glowing with love,
her brimming eyes imaging poetry.
The hills which guard the piazza, softly drop
some rain upon this open square.
A gypsy woman wanders round to tell our fortunes,
her bosom sagging under her yellow dress.
The old man who sells flowers is nodding off
next to the woman who sells witches of cloth.
Little children run around and chase the pigeons.

How many stories must be floating round the tables
crowded with tourists swilling their beer!
How many stories could be told in the square's centre
where the fountain waits for the dark to fall again!

2 Rynek, Evening
Evening. And a poem drops, as black
as was the bridal-gown of the princess
who threw herself from a tower out of love.*
At the edge there is a girl who's drunk a lot of vodka,
lying on the ground, she sings a lullaby
to ladybirds taking their rest in thickets.
Tourists are romancing by candlelight
at the few tables in a half-shut café.
A couple of poets write their verses down
and the fountain waits for the dawn to come again.

3 Michal
I left you my somber face upon a canvas;
I left you with a moment that never comes;
I left you with a journey on a train
that crossed whole centuries of ancient tales,
of ashes and of blood-shed, and of diamonds.
I left you with a song which hankers to be sung
by a thousand different tongues rising at once.

Swim to the river's edge so that at last
We'll find some solace waiting for us.
*in Kazimierz Dolny there is a legend of a wealthy girl who loved a fisherman, but whose father condemned this union because he wanted his daughter to marry a member of the royal family. To punish her, he had her locked in a tower, out of which she jumped to her death. It is said that she was buried in a black wedding dress and that every night she haunts the streets of Kaziemierz Dolny.

1. Rynek As soon as I arrived, alone, at the big piazza,
I saw my dead ones had been waiting for me.
And there beneath the clouds, beneath the sun, we talked.
We sat in the café together drinking beer
and tried to count how many pigeons flew,
how many girls crossed the square, carrying flowers,
how many languages we could not understand.

And then my dead ones rose to leave
because it had grown late and the square was darkening.
They vanished into the memories they left behind them.
Around me, colourful pictures of the living.

2. Sex Shop
Agnieszka, only partly attired, saunters
down corridors replete with pictures packed with red.
The men watch her, lusting for her,
they dangle crumpled zlotys with which to take her.

I wait until Agnieszka approaches me
to gaze upon her flower-bedecked breasts;
to feel myself surrender to my blood again;
to observe minutely where this soul is bound.

3. Nowa Huta
Once Lenin's monument stood here,
gazing at the greyness of Nowa Huta,
at the workers' exhaustion, at this sluggishness,
at the strange brown colour of the walls.

This is the city of the struggling proletariat -
against the ruthlessness of steel, of sorrow,
the inexorability of history, of blood,
the ever-falling leaves, and of tears.

Today our comrade Lenin stands no more;
but the grey is still here, the brown is here,
the proletariat is still here, swilling beer,
this city is still hunting for its soul.

The monstrous streets, like beasts, are here still.
The hunger that has always been still craves its fill.

For Lily, somewhere between Cracow and Warsaw

You sent a message: here the wind is blowing
reminding me of you. Where have you roved today?

I was leaving you further behind, on a train
drawing closer to the city of great streets,
to this city of wrecked synagogues,
black monuments recording revolutions
behind walls made of stone or of barbed wire,
- heroes dumped inside ghettoes, left too die -
the city slaughtered by its own devastation.

I was on a train staring out at fields,
at huge trees waving at the strangers
who travel this way in the guise of pilgrims
to pore over the scars, the gas, the poetry,
to rummage for some diamonds in the ashes,
to understand hunger, thirst and fantasy,
to interview the ghosts
who died dripping the blood of the regime.

And I answered your message: heart of my heart,
the wind here never blows, for if it did
then ashes which have finally settled, would be disturbed.
I wish that you were near to remind me
of the savage blue sea I left behind.
The train pulls into this city of vast streets
where I'm afraid to say the words 'I love...'

© Immanuel Mifsud
Translated by Maria Grech Ganado

Read poems from Mallorca in English (published in Drunken Boat)

Read the Dutch version of the poems from Mallorca

Read the poems from Majdanek and Auschwitz

Read the poems from Slovakia

Read these poems in Maltese