Five Poems by Darek Foks (b. 1966)

The Deer Hunters

Come, dear friend, we shall save something

for posterity. What is your opinion

of this gentleman urinating in the alley

that we have so many memories of?

I shall tell him that it is not nice

and you at the same time shall catch him

good. Just like that! Hold

on tight to the net and be careful, so that

he does not get his coat dirty (a fine garment

from the early sixties), and I

will be right back, after I get

a bigger stick pin.


Translated by Marit MacArthur and Marta Pilarska




Outside the Map 

Christ, darling, it always gives out

when we’re almost there. It always gives out


when pottery provides employment

to many of our rural folk, and starts to


bring in profits. It always gives out

when I pour water on a whale.


It always gives out when I ask:

“Isn’t there a gas station nearby?”


It always gives out when I say:

“We sure could use a gas station.”


It always gives out when I shout:

“Look out for a gas station!”


It always gives out when I request:

“If you see a gas station,


please tell me.” It always gives out

when I translate everything into English


or Japanese. It always it gives out

when we pass the house of a gynecologist


where at least three patients

are sitting, and each driver


of the cars at the front of the gate

wonders about his own full tank,


without which there’s less of everything,

without which nothing goes (and the map


won’t give out). It always gives out

when you need to write on both sides


(because you need to write on both sides

and the map gives out on you.) It always


could have given out sooner.


Translated by Marit MacArthur and Marta Pilarska




Birch Wood 

In our building

one guy

leaves for

work at five

a.m. He ought to

move out

the sooner the better.

Ideally at four



son. The bombs

Hitler dropped didn’t

catch the milkman.

He went out as usual

on the streets of London

in his slightly wrinkled

milkman’s uniform.


are among us.


Hitler’s bombs

did catch

the bottles

that had hoped

to welcome the milkman

in the early morning

The early morning

went out to fuck

with Hitler’s bombs.


I saw the milkman

in a photo

in National Geographic.

He was the only milkman

I looked at closely.

His cart 
full of bottles

is my cart

full of bottles.


I can’t say

to myself “Son,”

and this complicates

matters a little, if maybe

I wanted to play the father.

Son, now I

am talking to Mama,

who sent me to the cellar

for wine, where there


is no television.

Space Heater,

which I subscribed to

in April

has not yet arrived.

It should have come

in November.

Cozy poems,

cozy stories,


hot reviews.”

Very early

this year I paid

for the subscription

to Sestina.

They were to publish

three of my pieces,

the ones about the army.

It’s likely they published


one. It’s likely

the lady

who delivers the letters

knows it by heart.

Her husband

was a sergeant.

Crushed by a tank.

The lady delivers letters

because she cannot


sit still. The bicycle

her husband left her.

She won’t talk

with strangers

about the chain.

She doesn’t need lights:

her brother-in-law

picks her up on his way

to the station. She gets a discount


on everything,

even on Transportation,

which she’s been reading since May.

Since May she’s also been

looking through Cherished Italics,

Friday’s Haiku,

Baroque with Us,

and Elegy for the Partisans.


I write: “Dear Madam,

I dedicate the sestina

to the memory of your husband,

who was a sergeant

who was crushed

by a tank (although

the sestina concerns

lighter arms

and victory).


At the same time I ask

for the return of Space Heater.

Please hold on to

the other magazines.

I also wish

to inform you

that yesterday I paid for

a subscription to

The Worm of Rhyme,


which should be

to your taste.”

I put the envelope

into a copy of Orcio

the Brave,

which she probably

hasn’t heard of yet,

because I picked it up

Friday at the printers.


I concentrated

on the dustiest


to honor the milkman

from London,

who I mentioned

before. Is he sleeping?

He sleeps when he smells milk.

I missed


the scene in which

Bolesław torments

Ola, excuse me,

Daniel Olbrychski,

abuses Elżbieta 

Żołek. To judge

from the expression

on your face, they

haven’t yet cut

that scene. “Uncut.”


The guy from the building

across the way promised

that if he does not receive

the latest issue of

Polish Sander,

he will take out a stun gun

from his sofa bed and he will leave

it on all night.


We plan to organize

for our hospital patients

a beach vacation.

Polish Mail will foot the bill.

We’ll deliver them

by bus. The national bus

company will chip in. That’s why

I asked you to leave

the curtains alone.


Translated by Marit MacArthur and Marta Pilarska




Elaborate Train 

I have stripped her of gray postmodernism

and lacey O’Haraism.

My right hand rested on her left classicist,

my left fell upon the barbarian on the right.

Our ideas for an anthology matched

one hundred percent. We climaxed

at ninety thousand words.


The co-owner of the apartment, the crazy aunts

Polish Television and Gazeta Wyborcza,

went to the movies to see Independence Day

or something of the sort

and came back on foot

because some student

had slashed every kind of diction.


We moved the dresser of tomorrow and hope

near the door, so as to scan the author’s portraits in peace.

The aunts stood on the sidewalk under the window

and nagged. We replied: “Copy yourself, both of you!”

The hard drive crashed in the wee hours.

We had everything on floppies,

 so with one last burst of energy we designed the cover.


Translated by Marit MacArthur and Marta Pilarska



Why I Am Not a Gravedigger 

I am not a gravedigger, I am a woodworker.

Why? Maybe I would rather be

a gravedigger, but I am a woodworker. I work


with gravediggers. I meet one:

he starts to dig. I look closely at this shovel.

“Sit down and have a drink,” he says. I sit

and drink. We both drink. I regard

the shovel. “There’s a clump of clay on it.”

“I knew something was too heavy.”

“Aha.” I walk away and days pass

and I come back again. The digging

goes on, and I sink too, and days

likewise. I come back again. The grave is

dug. “But where did the clay

go?” There is only

the shovel. “I buried it,” he says.


And me? One day I think of

a coffin made of oak. I cut

boards. Soon I have a whole

stack of boards, not planed.

Then a second stack. I could use

a plane, not the one I have, but

a sharp one that could bring out the wood’s

color and life. Days pass. It is even

a piece of furniture, I am a real woodworker. I cut

but I haven’t yet mentioned

nailing it together. There are twelve coffins,

I put them in a van. And one day

I see near the cemetery a van full of shovels.


Translated by Marit MacArthur and Marta Pilarska