The following selection of poetry is from Colonies by Tomasz Różycki, translated from Polish by Mira Rosenthal with support from the PEN Translation Fund.
Since it so happens you are strange and I
am strange, together we will shock the world.
Families as they stroll by will point at us,
and we’ll be famous, quite mysterious.
They’ll even make up complicated plots
in films about us, all untrue. At night,
in mid-December, we will find ourselves
a hiding place where we’ll make love and have
no other worries. We were meant to meet
in such a huge world, we are singled out
by language. Stick out your tongue for me, kitten.
I’ll tell you a story. Together again,
as it so happens, language will betray us
and kill the world, turn it to dew and ash.
Missionaries and Savages
All those who steal from us, all those who set
the rates and taxes, those behind their desks
assigning jobs, all those responsible
for schedules and reports, those who perfect
the art of tracking our mistakes; all those
not listening to us, who’ve never listened,
those who do not look you in the eye, and those
you finally must ask for help, advice,
and always introduce yourself anew—
all slighted, snubbed, rebuked—I’ve made small statues
of them from earth and spit, they are my world
laid out on newsprint. I’ll perform the service
slowly, a special rite, from the beginning
recite the scenes of their amazing torture.
Totems and Beads
It’s all post-German—my post-German town
and my post-German woods, post-German graves,
post-German living room, post-German stairs
and clock face, dresser, plate, post-German car
and shirt and cup and trees and radio,
and right here on this rubbish heap I’ve built
my life, right here on refuse where I’ll reign,
consuming and digesting everything.
It’s up to me to build a homeland from it,
but all I do is turn out oxygen
and nitrogen and carbon, live in soot-
soaked air, my element. Now look: a breeze
is lifting me. I will self-propagate,
occupy attics, pantries, suburbs, wastelands.