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Four Poems by Małgorzata Lebda

translated from the Polish Elżbieta Wójcik-Leese


fire: cleansing

into the lid of a big jar father pours
methylated spirits lets me set it on fire

over the flame he singes the cold body of a duck
heart or liver? he asks though he knows that mother
will save the liver for me apparently thanks
to it after the time of illness i recovered blood



november: evil i

for your long illnesses I used
earthly and unearthly measures and old rogowska
the more she resembled a desert bird
the more thoroughly she groomed evil off you 

that november night i thought
she put it aside in her back in that meaty hump



november: evil ii

we could sense old rogowska was coming
father fetched from the hall a vodka bottle
filled with honeydew she knocked her stick
against the kitchen window

on the threshold of that winter her hands became
claws of a bird of prey (we knew it) she celebrated
hushed masses over our heads she smelled
like wet molehills burst
with acetylene carbide 



november: evil iii

especially during your long illnesses
i’d sidle closer the warmth of the infection stored
in your throats you were as defenceless as the young
of pigeons I used for your broth 

and when you stole cats from the cowshed
i closed my eyes

with these exceptions I was a strict father
and unjust you’d say



The photo taken by Natalia Orłowska.

Małgorzata Lebda, ultramarathon runner and photographer, has published six poetry volumes, which won major Polish literary prizes. She grew up in Żelaźnikowa Wielka, a small village in the Beskid Sądecki in southern Poland. 




Elżbieta Wójcik-Leese writes with/in English, Polish and Danish. Night Truck Driver (Zephyr Press, 2020), her selection from Marcin Świetlicki, finalist for the Big Other Book Award for Translation, was longlisted for the 2021 PEN Award for Poetry in Translation.



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