Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Tadeusz Rózewicz

Mickiewicz: "It is more difficult to live through a day well than to write a good book"

Tadeusz Rózewicz in Conversation with Adam Czerniawski
"I search books and poems for practical help. I hope they will help me overcome despair and doubt and, strangely enough, I sought help both in Dostoevsky and in Conrad. Similarly, I sought help during the Occupation, and even before, in poetry. And when this led to disappointment-after all, these were only books-I became angry and disillusioned with the greatest works. I felt I was muddling things up in some way and yet I couldn't face up to this. Because I myself have always searched, begged for help, I began to think that I too may be able to help, though of course I also have moments when I feel it's not worth anything. Occasionally, someone writes to me in a way that strengthens my conviction regarding my determination to turn words into practice."

The Survivor
by Tadeusz Rozewicz

I am twenty-four
led to slaughter
I survived.

The following are empty synonyms:
man and beast
love and hate
friend and foe
darkness and light.

The way of killing men and beasts is the same
I've seen it:
Truckfuls of chopped-up me
who will not be saved.

Ideas are mere words:
virtue and crime
truth and lies
beauty and ugliness
courage and cowardice.

Virtue and crime weigh the same
I"ve seen it:
in a man who was both
criminal and virtuous

I seek a teacher and a master
may he restore my sight hearing and speech
may he again name objects and ideas
may he separate darkness and light

I am twenty-four
led to slaughter
I survived.

translated by Adam Czerniawski

In the Midst of Life
by Tadeusz Rozewicz

After the end of the world
after death
I found myself in the midst of life
creating myself
building life
people animals landscapes

this is a table I said
this is a table
there is bread and a knife on the table
knife serves to cut bread
people are nourished by bread

man must be loved
I learnt by night by day
what must one love
I would reply man

this is a window I siad
this is a window
there is a darden beyond the window
I see an apple-tree in the graden
the apple-tree blossoms
the blossom falls
fruit is formed

my father picks the apple
the man who picks the apple
is my father

I sat on the threshold
that old woman who
leads a goat on a string
is needed more
is worth more
that seven wonders of the world
anyone who thinks or feels
she is not needed
is a mass murderer

this is a man
this is a tree this is bread
people eat to live
I kept saying to myself
human life is important
human life has great importance

the value of life
is greater than the value of all things
which man has created
man is a great treasure
I repeated stubbornly

this is water I said
I stroked the waves with my hand
and talked to the river
water I would say
nice water
this is me

man talked to water
talked to the moon
to the flowers and to rain
talked to the earth
to the birds
to the sky

the sky was silent
the earth was silent
and if a voice was heard
from earth water and sky
it was a voice of another man

translated by Adam Czerniawski

by Tadeusz Rozewicz

I turn to you high priests
teachers judges artists
shoemakers physicians officials
and to you my father
Hear me out.

I am not young
let the slenderness of my body
not deceive you
not the tender whiteness of my neck
nor the fairness of my open brow
nor the down on my sweet lip
nor my cherubic laughter
nor the spring in my step

I am not young
let my innocence
not move you
nor my purity
nor my weakness
fragility and simplicity

I am twenty years old
I am a murderer
I am an instrument
blind as the axe
in the hands of an executioner
I struck a man dead
and with red fingers
stroked the white breats of women.

Maimed I saw
neither heaven nor rose
nor bird nest tree
St. Francis
Achilles nor Hector
For six years
blood gushed steaming from my nostrils
I do not believe in the changing of water into wine
I do not believe in the remission of sins
I do not believe in the resurrection of the body

translated by Magnus J. Krynski and Robert A. Maguire

Deposition of the Burden
by Tadeusz Rózewicz

He came to you
and said
you are not responsible
either for the world or for the end of the world
the burden is taken from your shoulders
you are like birds and children

so they play

they forget
that modern poetry
is a struggle for breath

Translated by Czeslaw Milosz

Who Is a Poet
by Tadeusz Rózewicz

a poet is one who writes verses
and one who does not write verses

a poet is one who throws off fetters
and one who puts fetters on himself

a poet is one who believes
and one who cannot bring himself to believe

a poet is one who has told lies
and one who has been told lies

one who has been inclined to fall
and one who raises himself

a poet is one who tries to leave
and one who cannot leave

tranlated by Magnus J. Krynski and Robert A. Maguire

Among Many Tasks
by Tadeusz Rózewicz

Among many tasks
very urgent
I've forgotten that
it's also necessary
to be dying

I have neglected this obligation
or have been fulfilling it

beginning tomorrow
everything will change
I will start dying assiduously
wisely optimistically
without wasting time

tranlated by Magnus J. Krynski and Robert A. Maguire

Draft for a Contemporary Love Poem
by Tadeusz Rózewicz

For surely whiteness
is buest described through greyness
bird through stone
in December

in the past love poems
described flesh
described this and that
eyelashes for instance

surely redness
should be described
through greyness sun through rain
poppies in November
lips at night

the most telling
description of bread
is one of hunger
it includes
the damp porous entre
the warm interior
sunflowers at night
breats belly thighs of Cybele

a spring-like
transparent description
of water
is the description of thirst
of ashes
it conjures up a mirage
clouds and trees enter
the mirror

Hunger deprivation
of flesh
is the description of love
the contemporary love poem

translated by Adam Czerniawski

by Tadeusz Rozewicz

When all the women in the transport
had their heads shaved
four workmen with brooms made a birch twigs
swept up
and gathered up the hair

Behind clean glass
the stiff hair lies
of those suffocated in gas chambers
there are pins and side combs
in this hair

The hair is not shot through with light
is not parted by the breeze
is not touched by any hand
or rain or lips

In huge chests
clouds of dry hair
of those suffocated
and a faded plait
a pigtail with a ribbon
pulled at school
by naughty boys

The Museum, Auschwitz, 1948

translated by Adam Czerniawski

Leave Us
by Tadeusz Rozewicz

Forget us
forget our generation
live like humans
forget us

we envied
plants and stones
we evied dogs

I'd rather be a rat
I told her then

I'd rather not be
I'd rather sleep
and wake when war is over
she said her eyes shut

Forget us
don't enquire about our youth
leave us

translated by Adam Czerniawski

Posthumous Rehabilitation
by Tadeusz Rozewicz

The dead have remembered
our indifference
The dead have remembered
our silence
The dead have remembered
our words

The dead see our snouts
laughing from ear to ear
The dead see
our bodies rubbing against each other
The dead hear
clucking tongues

The dead read our books
listen to our speeches
delivered so long ago

The dead scrutinize our lectures
join in previously terminated
The dead see our hands
poised for applause

The dead see stadiums
ensembles and choirs declaiming rhythmically

all the living are guilty

little childern
who offered bouquets of flowers
are guilty
lovers are guilty
guilty are poets

guilty are those who ran away
and those that stayed
those who were saying yes
those who said no
and those who said nothing

the dead are taking stock of the living
the dead will not rehabilitate us

translated by Adam Czerniawski

To the Heart
by Tadeusz Rozewicz

I watched
an expert cook
he would thrust his hand
into the windpipe
pushing it through
into the sheep's
and there in the quick
would grasp the heart
his fingers closing
round the heart
would rip out the heart
with one pull
he certainly was an expert

translated by Adam Czerniawski

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