Mieczysław Jastrun

Memory

Translated from the Polish by Dzvinia Orlowsky and Jeff Friedman

 

Nothing survived the Annunciation
except rocks and the hard shadows
of cypresses.

Fright in her eyes, she smiles,
trapped in the interior of a painting,
her hands dirty before she is dragged away
in the deathly air.

What is beauty
if not the roundness of her arms.
Or the young Tobias, at war
with the demons, seeing
the archangel rise from the water,
and feeling the protective warmth
of the Archangel’s stare,

believing then that God might
have pity on him and Sarah,
rooted in their own fates
like black cypresses.

The Tuscan sun darkens
the shoulders of the mourners,
where the earth leaps into the grave,
and the face and hair dissolve.

Just a glance at a wilted flower,
the wings of an insect in flight
that plunges through red glow
of the sun—nothing can save
us from this fate.

When I open a pomegranate, orange
seeds spill on my toes and on stone.
When you drown, the water spreads
in circles, and the light steps away
from you.

Only memory comes close to immortality,
but its images are broken.

 

 

 

Dzvinia Orlowsky is a poet and translator.  She is the author of five collections of poetry published by Carnegie Mellon University Press including A Handful of Bees, reprinted in 2009 as a Carnegie Mellon Classic Contemporary; Convertible Night, Flurry of Stones, recipient of a 2010 Sheila Motton Book Award; and her most recent, Silvertone, for which she was named Ohio Poetry Day Association’s 2014 Co-Poet of the Year. Her translation from Ukrainian of Alexander Dovzhenko’s novella, The Enchanted Desna, was published by House Between Water in 2006; and Jeff Friedman’s and her translation of Memorials  by Polish Poet Mieczysław Jastrun was published by Dialogos in 2014. She is a Founding Editor of Four Way Books, a recipient of a Pushcart Prize, a Massachusetts Cultural Council poetry grant, and recipient with Jeff Friedman of a 2016 National Endowment for the Arts Translation Grant. She teaches poetry at the Solstice Low-Residency MFA Program in Creative Writing of Pine Manor College and at Providence College. Her newest poetry collection, Bad Harvest, is forthcoming from Carnegie Mellon University Press in 2018.  

Jeff Friedman’s seventh book Floating Tales—a collection of prose poems—was published by Plume Editions/MadHat Press in fall 2017. His poems, mini stories and translations have appeared in American Poetry Review, Poetry, New England Review, The Antioch Review, Poetry International, Plume, Hotel Amerika, Flash Fiction Funny, Agni Online, Solstice Literary Magazine, The New Bloomsbury Anthology of Contemporary Jewish Poets, New Flash Fiction Review, The New Republic and numerous other literary magazinesDzvinia Orlowsky’s and his translation of Memorials by Polish Poet Mieczslaw Jastrun was published by Lavender Ink/Dialogos in August 2014. Nati Zohar and Friedman’s book of translations Two Gardens: Modern Hebrew Poems of the Bible, was published by Singing Bone Press in 2016. Friedman has received numerous awards and prizes including a National Endowment Literature Translation Fellowship in 2016 with Dzvinia Orlowsky and two individual Artist Grants from New Hampshire Arts Council.

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