A TALE OF THREE WITCHES
Three moons shone,
three witches flew on.
Flew far, flew far along celestial roads
again and again they vanished in the clouds –
– and high on the Bare Mountain
the devil, the devil was awaiting them
with horns of gold.
One of them had hair of red,
on a black broomstick she sped.
Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey!
The second one, grey as a moth
clung to her poker
out of breath –
Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey!
Like a white swallow
the third, poor dear,
wore a vervain wreath in her golden hair,
picked from a meadow at midnight,
bathed in the full moon’s glowing light.
Her lips were red, cat’s fat shone
on her skin,
her fallen eyes burned with her suffering.
She rode a spade.
Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey!
In the shadow of three crosses, on the Bare Mountain,
the devil sits by the red fire,
he wraps his tail round him,
hugs his hooves
and questions the witches:
the one with scarlet hair,
the one who’s grey and twitches
and one who is more silver than the full moon’s disk:
What do they love him for?
The scarlet one says this:
“I love you, Satan,
my lips adore you for your kisses,
for the miracle of possession.
My husband! Come!
Who tastes you once is yours eternally!
Bind me with your arm
and always stand by me!
Everything in the world is a lie save your embrace,
it is the trine in Solomon’s star, so rich
I fly towards it in a lightning bolt
in the arboreal night, in the bat’s cry,
I, the wild witch!”
– And the old grey one says,
ugly as a reptile:
“My body – an empty sheet,
its treasures ransacked by time.
And so it goes.
I was loved by princes, by the elite
kings, lords and nobles, even God!
Today strong young feet are crushing me, I’m trod
down like an earwig or woodlouse
and for you only now this empty sack
contains a treasure house.
At night, when the moon sprinkles its light,
you come to me –
stop at my bedside
and with your hand in this coffin body greedily
search for my soul.
It hides, beautiful as a lily.
You alone, alone, desire something from me.
So I shuffle behind you down the darkness of no return
and I do love you Satan, love you, yearn
for your grace: – how your desire burns!”
– Satan is silent, strokes his beard,
sees the third witch’s beauty, calls her near
and sits her on his lap,
– in the fire, juniper cracks.
Silent words flow along, as full of sorrows as a swan’s song:
“Longing brings me here,
longing like a storm
and sorrow without measure. –
False Jasiek did me harm.
– But you stay true to me,
do not hurt me without cause,
pay for my love with loveliness,
my yearning desire with yours –
though you are only darkness
and the shadow of the Lord. –
Lead me home with you,
deliver me not to any other,
neither to people nor to gods
nor to friends, nor to foes,
for no one has ever heard,
no one will ever say,
that the devil, the devil, could drive a damned soul away!”
On the Bare Mountain three black crosses stand,
white ghosts and quick shadows dance there hand in hand.
Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey!
DIP ME IN HIM
Dip me in him
like the rose in the vase
up to my eyes,
to my brow,
to the crown of my fair hair –
roll him through me,
like the kissing seas
of the Pacific.
Who cares if the night and the dawn perish,
the light of the moon and the sun –
only make him sink in me
like the music of a violin.
When it touches my heart
I will play the sweetest part –
Your eyes are silent as ever, your eyes are silent as ever
as you embrace me so –
calm stars rain down from heaven, kind stars rain down from heaven and somewhere snow dies on snow...
Our faces go white in silence, our faces fade out in silence
and souls in love turn white...
there in an azure cloud stands, there in a drowsy clod stands
the rosy heart of the light...
I’m lying here on your bed, I’m drifting asleep on your bed
deep in a silver stretcher,
suspended at the crossroads, held up the crossroads
prepared for pleasure...
The gold flames dart.
I shall burn a pink rose,
a black hen’s tiny feather
and a human heart.
I shall never poison,
I shall never murder,
this heart has no owner,
it’s only mine.
No dove’s gore in a bowl,
my magic isn’t cruel,
into the witch’s stew
I’ll toss my own soul.
WHOEVER WANTS ME TO LOVE HIM
Whoever wants me to love him must never look gloomy, understand,
and he must be able to lift me up high in the palm of his hand.
Whoever wants me to love him must know how to sit on a bench for hours
and contemplate the little worms and leaves of grass and flowers.
And he must know how to yawn when the funeral plods by in the street
and the crowds in the procession piously shuffle and bleat.
Instead when, say, a cuckoo calls he must know how to be moved,
or when a woodpecker pecks fiercely at a silver beech in the wood.
He must know how to stroke a dog and to give me a caress
and how to laugh and live in his dreams, deep, sweet and meaningless,
and stay quiet in the blissful darkness and know nothing, just like me,
and as for goodness and badness, stray from them equally.
There used to be a podgy funny child. She died. She’s gone.
You can still see her photographs in the parlour. She shrieked as she scampered
round the house until she and her laughter stopped. It surprised no one
even though she had been loved so much, so pampered.
As she slowly began to fade from the house there were no lamentations or tears.
Toys, dresses, discarded souvenirs crammed the attic.
Mama would watch by her cradle even into the small hours,
yet she never cries today, remembering it.
Her name was the same as mine so everyone thinks she’s me,
so they never dug a grave big enough for a mole, let alone for a human.
She is forgotten and lost. That’s why at night she howls in the chimney
that her place has been taken by some wicked woman…
THE PALACE ON THE ICE
My spiral little palace on the pink ice
stays unshaken through blizzards but trembles when it’s nice.
Its balconies are tilted, the bedrooms aslant.
There thrills slumber, dreams you long to touch but can’t.
The sun loves the bright spot underneath the bell,
the moon pokes its horns out from its attic cell.
There, in the dining room, May laughter breaks its fast
and up and down a staircase cage gold birds fly past.
In the snow by the window bloom snow roses, this year’s,
and handkerchiefs dry on the line, soaked wet with tears.
Butterflies swarm round them, a shower of white kisses,
for these tears are happy and sweet as narcissus.
WHY SHOULD WE GO TO TURKEY
The garden shivers, sick with hashish dreams
and puffballs in the garden sparkle in chorus.
Why should we go to Turkey? We breathe Turkish lilac in
and the same pale half-moon rises over the Bosphorus.
Beyond the gate all’s dust and noise, a tram-bell rings.
Here’s uncut grass, long, high; a rug
crazy with colours; and your sweet mouth — Turkish delight —
and my scarf, green as the Prophet’s flag.
Like the Bey with the pearl of his harem, we’re left alone…
out of our cloudy eyes we drink to our content —
I the pale Leila and you Mechmed Ali —
the prettiest, sweetest mystery of the Orient!
Smoke from a Turkish Khediv swings out in clouds,
a gold nasturtium wafts glorious scents to me.
Silence is Turkish, alien — oh, Allah!
Why should we go to Turkey? To faraway Turkey?
The aunts weren’t beautiful, nothing like good fairies.
They were brave, resilient fustian wives.
They didn’t have slim legs or golden hair
or long startled lashes and ominous eyes.
They were serious about their children, flowers and preserves,
they were strict with their husbands, they disliked perfume.
Robust as hens and tough as millet seeds,
they could sleep peacefully during the full moon.
Only aunt Jola was fragrant, graceful.
She seemed a fairy or Parisian doll.
She dressed in feathers and in sun-spun tulle
and when she kissed lifted a starry veil.
Soon some ill spring wind tore her to bits
in the dark murmurs of the lightning season.
The sackcloth aunts wept — they’d never lived
to taste the taste of love and of… rat poison.
The hazel swathes itself in a purple stole,
the lime tree in smooth green satin…
But there will be no costume change for me,
no one will look at me again.
Some men weave nettles and dandelions
into bouquets, but can you tell where
there are eccentrics strange enough
to kiss an old woman’s hair?
I am alone,
Grandmother is my name —
on the world’s rainbow fabric
I am a black stain…
The weary days drag on like mules on a dusty track.
The holidays are tapping at the blinds…
Torrid heat prises itself in, squats in each crack.
Oh, how I miss your heart of ice…
AT THE STAKE
You caught me by my stormy hair,
Lord of the Fire!
with your arms like cords
you tied me to your heart, the pyre.
Revenge for every curse, each dark device!
No hope of flight!
Day has burned down into the coal of night,
with sparks and sighs.
Someone got a letter. Someone’s heart races.
Apple trees are in blossom, she’ll read it there.
She reads, clasps her hand to her throat, loses
her footing, and she drowns in air.
Wind rocks the myrtle and the lemon tree,
it lulls the mimosa with its refrain.
Above the rose a butterfly is sailing free.
Above my head a white aeroplane.
Flying past the rose, dark and hot,
the butterfly is heading overseas.
A blind pilot, a frantic pilot
flies over me.
You brood so much. Stubborn, secretive.
You stare at the window with gloom in your eye...
Don’t you love me more than you love your life?
You said so yourself in the year gone by...
You laugh but there’s something you’ve concealed.
You gaze at the sculptures of cloud in the sky...
Aren’t I your sky and aren’t I your world?
You said so yourself in the year gone by...
If only the cloud of unloving
could slip from the face of our sun,
at your feet, flat as a shadow,
I’d lie down...
I haven’t seen you for a month or so.
No change. Perhaps I’m pale rather than fair,
sleepier, more silent. It shows
you can live without air.
Your mouth: a rosy ocean.
Your gaze: a wave in the storm.
And those broad shoulders of yours:
Out of the blue one day, perhaps
that letter will arrive. Then — nothing to record.
Except that, looking God straight in His eye
I shall say quietly: “Too late, my Lord!”
Oh, I shall have to stay here for a while
in glassy water, in a seaweed net,
until this fact and I are reconciled:
I wasn’t loved, it’s as simple as that.
Suppose you’ve had that once-in-a-blue-moon bliss,
another’s body and the entire earth,
and end with just a photograph like this,
this – so this is all it’s worth...
You are like Nike of Samothrace,
Though slain, you still run your eager race,
reaching out severed arms…
The virtues that please the Lord are not for me:
they grow pale, shrinking before my eyes
until only the last of them survives:
I love you, My Enemy.
A WOMAN WAITING
She looks at the clock and counts her hours,
she chews her handkerchief in helpless fury.
The world through the window is pale and dour
Visitors? Perhaps it’s too late for me.
She is wearing the shawl. It’s red and gold.
In the lake’s oval she studies herself.
But she’s not well. She hasn’t yet been told
that’s the shawl they’ll bury her in.
A little bird limps off to die, hides
so nobody on earth will see it —
like the heart in the human breast — burrows inside
to die in secret.
You’re wrapped in fur. I see
you pause before a puddle, clutching close
a pekinese, a brolly and a rose…
How will you step into eternity?
amongst monkeys leaping around
as monkeys will
in a crowd of cows and bears
amongst squeaks and roars
we like adam and eve drunk on paradise still
hug each other tight on the dance floor
b l u e s
you’re miss america what good’s that to you
or your venus body or sex-kitten face
you haven’t met my dancer he doesn’t go wild
head over heels in love in your embrace
he chose and judges me by rules of his own
and says that I’m unique knows what I’m worth
don’t gape at me from the paper proud on your throne
honey solely for him I am miss earth
the dancer’s arms
I’ve come to know your arms on the dance floor
solid as a wall
hard as steel
is it pity or contempt that frailty makes you feel
just delight packed with crazy terror
cry of the jazzband
you say jazzbands are wild skirl
like the wind in the chimney
isn’t life’s score wild
life is a storm and a cry
wasn’t such music playing when we came into the world
is this an angel hurtling down to earth
as though its arms strained for an embrace? home
landed safely in the grass it sleeps
upon the wide and windswept aerodrome
is that a cloud on fire up there
why has the dew upon the grass turned red
an angel flew down on a burning cloud
its arms outspread
then it’s all over between you and me
I shan’t see you on earth again after this
I’m smashing my basket of berries against a tree
every berry a kiss
the dresses and the ostrich fans have withered
time hangs suspended like a locust cloud
everything ended sooner than it had to
I have no partner still the music’s loud
the divine dancer’s dancing on elsewhere
don’t pretend you can tell me where he’s gone
if I can’t see him on the dance floor here
how will I find him in the great beyond
one should wear a mask
I went masked wrapped in a dark cloak
my eyes narrowed
into crescent horns
happiness didn’t know me
danced with me never awoke
to the fact that I was the one
the one it scorns
nor could fate see through my disguise
but thought why don’t I arrange
a nice little surprise
for this stranger
The Ice Queen stalks the streets, her form
surrounded by a wild white storm.
Her lips are pale, tightly closed,
her bonnet crowned with snow —
she holds the letter. White paper, black words
out of which the ice bursts.
She strides to the river. Her eyes are frost.
The Queen leaps in; the river stops.
Lady, you’re losing all your self-respect:
lurking at gates for postmen with a letter!
You look so sad, you smile at them and beg
like a wounded person prostrate on a stretcher.
Her days drown without correspondence,
sink to the depths of an unfathomed sorrow...
even the startled postman is despondent:
“If it were me, I’d write to you tomorrow.”
In the small blue Grecian Wedgwood vase,
tied with wire mesh the roses fell apart.
Helpless, the little pink bowls plummeted.
Now they lie yellowing, senseless, sad at heart.
“Just like my happiness,” I should have thought,
“shaken by fate and plucked apart by chance!”
Ah, but no rose was half so beautiful
and roses often blossom more than once.
How can one love a world containing spiders
or a Creator nursing a spidery dream?
What if I bump, in Hell or Heaven, into the Platonic Spider,
the big one with fangs in its belly, some contorted spider-strain?
It will remind me that they’re olive, sport a nest of multiple eyes,
have bristly legs and an abdomen like a fat heart —
it will leap out suddenly, throw its eight legs wide,
and I’ll say no thanks to reincarnation, I’d be terrified.
THE WITCH’S KINDRED
I pledge you lifelong love: belladonna,
the dark Valencienne lace of the elderflower,
the crow, new moon, hemlock’s grey bell,
tobacco flowering in the night,
the toad, hyena, and the eagle owl.
I, a witch without a broomstick but with a burnt heart, lovesick
for some poor distant demon, gazing clear
into the world like a crystal ball,
I press you to my soul and love you all.
You are the witch’s kindred –
THE SILENCE OF THE FOREST
Like a unicorn from a fairy tale – beautiful beyond words,
silent and haughty –
you ran out to the edge of forever, my new love, turned
and looked toward me.
Only you mustn’t draw back, unyearning, shy,
into the depths of that forest without dawn!
Come closer, drive through my heart with a cry
with your golden horn!
A silent day. Day like a refuge. A house of mercy.
There lies a lady with a mortal wound, she’s dying of it.
Someone leans over her. “Is she asleep?” he asks,
“And who did this to her?” Who else? Her beloved.
A silent day. White hospital. Snow outside the window. Winter.
A line of hours and nurses moves by the bedroom wall.
They whisper: “Is there hope?” They sigh: “Not for her.”
Time in a white coat will not heal all...
My heart has been returned.
I gave it away in a shower of golden rain…
It isn’t poisonous as hemlock, I’ve now found,
nor huge, nor strong as a she-eagle’s,
nor guarded by a squad of dark-faced devils —
still, I’ll keep carrying it around,
happy that I’ve got it back
TO THE WORLD
This is the world for me. We shall not part.
Its great weight crushes down onto my heart
like an unconscious lover.
I offer it everything fearlessly
though it waves death in its fist, threatening me
the world’s faithfullest lover.
It lays out trinkets, toys, dead butterflies
in front of me. They stay here for a while
before the gale hurls them into space.
I kiss all its multimillion lips:
please, world, speak love to me before my last sleep
deep in your embrace.
On a vast Parisian bed,
beside the pillow
- not mine –
the full moon keeps me awake.
creeps in with its glare.
Under the bedspread, silver lines...
it aches to fill the empty space.
No one chases it off
or startles it here –
so it leans over me
Light will fill my mouth soon.
- We lie as on a bier...
and, oh, my heart breathes full,
but only full of the moon...
THE MAGICIANS OF PARIS
In Rue Pigalle, in a small hotel,
squeezed in between two shops selling lettuce,
Madame Kahl reads sealed letters and charges
a hundred francs.
In Fromentine Street la Mere Duval
divines your future in the coffee dregs.
She sighs over you. Talks of the things you hoped to leave unsaid.
The scent of coffee spreads
through her dull room.
In Rue De L’Echiquier magical Madame Girard,
in a parlour dressed with painted thistles,
quietly tells you everything you wish to forget.
She knows you much better than
your own sister does.
She knows, she’ll comfort you, help you like your mother.
She’ll commend you to the djin’s grand mafia.
Shivers of memories will seize the one who wronged you.
Here, pierce the heart of the photograph
In Boulevard Haussmann there dwells the medium Sarah.
She can look in the crystal ball and see all your history.
With her painted eye she measures the future.
In the rotunda the withered woman wanders round the tables,
a poor witch with a crop of copper hair.
She reads your cards hastily before you.
Whispers a vital name and follows
She takes your hand in hers, holds it up to the light.
She smiles to herself at your ring of Venus.
She points to the signs of happiness: a star
with six points, and here on your wrist – four
In return for a few centimes, a beggar
gives you your fortune, a small printed message
with a flower, a planet and a poem for your birthday.
It brings genuine
Zinah the medium speaks to you in Polish from the moment you step through her door.
She sees a halo above you. Tells you to live in hope:
“Go in peace now, quiet, sweet music.
The hubbub will fade and then you’ll be heard by those
who know how to listen.”
And in his nest made of silk carpets, the fakir Haman Bey
pierces you with a look of iron, straight, profound.
“Don’t grieve for dreams. Smoke the opium of life and await new longings.
And should we cling to dreams, try to hold down the clouds
“The wind has blown the wavering sugar cane from you.
Perhaps it will push a lovely palm-tree towards you, rustling wondrously.
Remember perpetual motion. No one here gives a thought for you.
Everything moves in the waves of a storm. Love the wave
Deep in the courtyards, right, left, in the mansards and basements
the magicians of Paris lurk like sleepy toads,
like green snakes, fluffy owls, like quiet nocturnes,
like jagged gargoyles in the galleries of
Notre Dame de Paris.
THE ADVICE OF MME. GIRARD, A WITCH
One Friday in September, come the New Moon, devise
a little doll, your lover’s effigy.
Give it a hawthorn mouth and an owl’s eyes
and every morn and night cuddle it tenderly
to make him feel – the fool – from time to time
that in his heart some sweet song is playing
and moths are chasing him, shrieking a silk cry,
so he’ll try to flee, anxious and raging,
to make him walk down autumn avenues,
kicking the dry leaves daubed thick with henna,
half comatose, half still resisting you –
and thinking, “I can’t forget her! Damn her!”
To make his heart feel sorrow, longing and fear
as he sees clouds of nude sylphs float past his attic
djin’s noses in trees, frogs in his pipe – my dear,
he’ll fall through your door, straight into your pink magic.
THE WOMAN IN WHITE
Woman in white, woman clear as air,
spotlit by moonbeams, shimmering in the chair,
why are you here, dressed for a masquerade?
Nobody has come, nobody respects
your pallid profile in that tied calèche,
your eyes like pools or your sweet oval face.
Yet in this great palace there is one heart
that beats time with yours, comprehends your art.
Give me your small hand in its cobweb glove...
Your pantalons are broderie antiques...
your stole’s not Persian but ectoplasmique...
your rainbow crinoline’s from the stars above...
Moonlike grace, let’s have a conversation,
you don’t fool me, you’re no hallucination:
out of a body sown in earth you bloom.
With coffined terror and in coiffured angst
your light spins round the wardrobe from Gdańsk
as you drift to the ceiling like a balloon...
Beyond the wall the old butler Łukasz
starts from his sleep and fumbles for a match
(he’s more afraid of you than of the tomb) –
For you swim again, mermaid of air,
less and less alive, less firm, less fair,
into another rosary of rooms...
Woman in white, into your protection
I give my longings, wild, without restriction.
Madonna of the tedious old graveyard!
Lady, a crowd, the lovely young elite,
should follow you and lie down at your feet,
then you would haunt no longer, you’d enchant.
Where the scholars have said, “It all ends here,”
where the dispeptic coachman with a sneer
cracks jokes to make life simpler (or he tries) -- --
There as a nameless fantasy you blossom,
there you will wave your gown of ectoplasm,
merry eternity’s little surprise!
AN UNSUCCESSFUL SÉANCE
The Ouija board was baffling tonight...
The entire circle had become impatient...
But one hand whiter than a white carnation
trembled, as a man’s hand held it tight.
Nobody saw the fading ectoplasm...
The table became motionless and froze.
From the white hand to the man’s there passed a spasm
and love materialised instead of ghosts.
THE LOVELIEST MAN
To tie you up, beautiful, with pink truth and blue lies,
as the parti-coloured blossom of the bindweed ties
the wall’s bare breast, and to tremble under your weight,
so much lighter than the silver weight of moonlight...
Or to lose you forever and ever, one misty cold
dawn when pale autumn sends Earth letters of gold...
To have a grave or a palace to make every eye envious –
a palace for life, or a grave for my joy in your loveliness.
THE BODY OF HAPPINESS
Suddenly, as the clouds obscured the moon,
some footsteps echoed faster than the wind.
A first floor balcony. A door. Behind,
an electric amaranth rose lit up a room.
A glass gate swings in the warm breeze.
Night peeks in. The body of happiness is turning
in the embrace of love; torn apart long ago
it grows together like a lizard, after so much yearning.
A silent lover is like a dark river
flowing along, carrying floating words.
Kissing his love he stays as silent as the firmament,
as a pilot spinning in space.
He robs her of half her happiness –
and she would remain baffled and bitter forever
had she not, in the dark,
with her arm, just by chance,
brushed a tear from his face.
Pass me my coat — — — it’s raining…
no more good weather, sorry to say…
It isn’t rain? no it’s just tears
from some planet far away…
THE CUCKOO AND THE LOVERS
For Maria Morska
Trembling like walkers on a wire,
Far too close to sunder,
Along the path through forest oaks
The lovers wander.
Billing and cooing cheek to cheek
They are a pair of doves.
A cuckoo cuckoos ecstatically
In an oak above.
“Cuckoo, foretell our destiny.
How long will Jasiek live?” she sings.
The cuckoo cuckoos in reply
And beats her wings.
“Heavens above, bird, that’s enough –
More than a century!
Now prophesy Marysia’s years!”
The bird stops suddenly.
The sun’s extinguished in a cloud,
Silence reigns everywhere.
Marysia stands there rapt and knows
She will not live a year.
The path turned to a wilderness
And then a squirrel threw
An empty shell at the girl’s feet
Amidst tears of dew.
In a moss-covered cemetery
Mourning wild roses bloom.
Tolling, foretelling, suddenly
The bells cuckoo.
VIOLETS ARE NIGHTINGALES
Warmed in a cordial leaf
Till the velvet of love unveils —
Sing their soprano fragrances.
In the world of flowers
violets are nightingales…
Ludicrous divine Love!
Cripple! You’re a sight,
Your wings hurl you up
And your bosom tries to follow
As you stare into the heights
But your squat hips
And hen’s feet
Hold you down here below…
You won’t ever reach the sky
And the earth won’t let you die,
You, the sweet-mouthed monster with the mournful eyes!
ROSES FOR SAPPHO
Without much hope, Buddha pronounced his teachings;
Ezekiel and Jeremiah hurled thunderbolts
At human passion — vulpine, hyena-like — from above;
Great Socrates thought; and Psammetichus fought
An Assyrian lion — whose jaws were death-breathing —
While you, pale, adorned with curls of amethyst,
You sang to the Pleiades, simply about love…
How dared you write of roses? History
Burned like a forest round you in the summer heat.
A man’s brushing dust off time’s annals in the library
But outside the window, back with the spring,
Sappho sings through a nightingale
Following her heart.
Even then – long ago, in Mitylene
And through the lengths of Lesbos –
Ignored by the gods of light, the coppice and the beach,
You, Love, fell down under the weight of tears because
Then as today – you were bitter-sweet…
Bronzed Sappho, Sappho with the long eyes,
Small and inconspicuous as the nightingales are,
Fell in love with a certain Phaon,
A very handsome mariner —
And young — although
He hated lyric art
Most especially the Sapphic ode.
Sister, how poor you became before him,
You who had ensnared so many demons!
How humble in his arms!
For what’s a nightingale glimpsed by a deaf man,
A nightingale without its song?
What are jasmine, nard
And violets to those deprived of sense, or with no nose?
What is the magic of a full-moon night
Swathed in a zephyr scarf to someone snoring?
Thus you lived and were rewarded, scorned
By a certain — Phaon.
A suicidal poetess
Lets her violet curls free,
Stands by the water… hears:
“Sappho, what next?”
“I long to cloak my head with the sea
So no-one can witness my tears… ”
How can I pray under the blue Christian sky
For help in love, the victory of dreams?
I confide and complain to the morning star,
The passionate star…
For you, Sappho, Aphrodite stood by
And when you called hurried in her swan chariot!
But now she is no more. Livid, exiled, white, morose
She smashed into the foam from which she once arose.
If once upon a time beside the sea
Unfriendly love should pierce me
With undesired temptation,
Time-wasting and suffering —
Oh then I’ll turn to you, mythic sea-foam,
And see in you a white body shimmering,
A chariot wheel, a lock of gold, a swan’s wing.
As the world spurned Sappho,
As her creations burned,
Rosy smoke blossomed;
A wild, heavy cloud turned
And flowed down time.
My lungs draw it in with the wind:
No waste of rhyme…
EPITAPH FOR A WOMAN IN LOVE
Now awoken to the world,
In an earthen shroud entwined,
Like a cross
Upon the grass she once lay,
Shrining a kiss in her mind…
He who squanders His heritage of stars
On coats of lilies white and roses red,
He, when I met you, garbed me with a blush,
You with pallor — and He knew what he did.
For what at such a time are mortal robes
Or welcoming gestures or high-flown tirades?
The hues we steal from the lily and rose
Are all that count to those whom blood persuades.
Rhymes, my delightful toys, my open jewellery box,
Crammed to the brim with corals, ribbons, shimmering gems;
I gathered you like a magpie; the best moments came
As I cascaded you from one hand to the other...
Today I don’t know how to tie my heavy words
With a flowery ribbon – I don’t know how to match
A shade to a shade, a sound to a sound... Goodbye,
My old and happy games, half a maestro’s half a child’s,
The assonance, like a riddle without meaning,
I rung from the carefree sweat of my brow... Today,
Rhythm, now you alone must lead my yearning thoughts,
Marching them arm in arm, determined, hard and warlike
Till the moment of Return.
When one of us appears to be war-unfriendly
Some sneering mentor grabs you instantly
And swats you like a fly with the word ”Pacifist!”,
Choking the heart’s endeavour, quite efficiently...
THE GYPSY WOMAN TALKING
I’m a gypsy wanderer
From far, far away,
King Kwiek’s daughter...
I glitter in the sun – not that the world cares –
With coins from three countries clinking on me,
I read the cards sometimes. It’s easily told:
I foretell death to the young – love to the old...
“I shan’t return! Let God hurtle me
Far into the stars! This world has hurt me
Unforgivably!” “Yes, but here love
Flowers like a stray orchid... Won’t you return?”
Polish miraculous night
(The mystery of grace)
My radiant neighbour!
Sweet Mary ever-present, effigie,
O, most giving
Firing flashes of miracles,
Adorned in pearl, in coral...
(c. 24-30 June 1945)