Maria was born 125 years ago in Kraków.

A motif that ran through her poems and plays, and her paintings too, was the figure of a Woman-Butterfly. The wings being a symbol of freedom and imagination, and magic. Unsurprisingly, then, she responded deeply to the story of Madam Butterfly, writing two poems six years apart: one tragic, one transcendent. 

 

MADAMA BUTTERFLY

As Butterfly lay on that mat made of straw,
like a fruit that hara-kiri had sliced open,
someone tore in, rapped at the paper walls
and let in the blazing vortex of destruction.

She heard his voice. Spellbound! Accursed!
So she convulsed - a caterpillar in a streaked cocoon -
on her elbows, on her side, to the closed door,
entwined in a dress of sky, peaches, and the moon.

In her haste she dropped face down onto the floor
and a wide exhausted wave rippled her on.
The Great Fan, black and foreboding, started to roar -
it blew away the walls and flowers, the world and Pinkerton…

[1924]

 

MADAM BUTTERFLY IN PARADISE

Madam Butterfly
in a black kimono
forgot about hara-kiri,
outstretched
in the green dawn
over a carnation –
the spellbound Pinkerton…  

Her breast touches the carnation,
she opens
closes
her wings’ eyes,
and the ghouls and shrouds disappear
in this sweet paradise –
in the middle of the lawn…

[1930]