Nine poems by Kacper Bartczak (b. 1972)

Beyond the Helplessness Principle

Something will occur and at once it will be found

among other occurrences I know

that the heaviest dreams are only an illusion

I know it from experience I see my own

experience now that it is over

Of course it is still alive statistical

and divine


Later on the poem

does not ask me any questions

about my wife kids work and photography

I just let it drink

from the well Your water

is hard clear with a note of iron

it says and it drinks greedily

like some kind of refugee



Translated by the author and Marit MacArthur





I have come downstairs to get

something to eat


To rinse the throat To replenish the supply

of minerals On the wall

quiet and promising

lightly trembled one gigantic

drop of water


It has gathered into itself

dust a pill

a model of the ocean

a postcard from memory

Natural sediment

nutritious and well-balanced


Keep it I say

Don’t compile Don’t add to it

If it’s the leak

you’ve been waiting for wait

until you say something


Translated by the author and Marit MacArthur




Advanced Driving Lessons

Our lives are calculated

at one hundred and twenty kilometers

per hour or even two hundred

and if you stay hungry you can live

to be one hundred and fifty It’s in your genes

Our generation met in the corridors

of institutions where we work full-time

but we cannot be found there within the walls

of former headquarters of the secret police

which remember those times We call each other

and arrange for further canceled meetings

This is history and all this sugar is the result

of my travels Eight years ago in Greece

the ferryman gave me high blood pressure but I can sleep now

surrounded by sweetness In magazines they write so much about life

but we’re losing our position

because of a wave of new opinion polls

Translated by the author and Marit MacArthur



No Time

The world functions like a cooperative

Reciprocally It trades in literally

everything It’s lonely

and it travels with one piece of luggage

without moving No matter what you say

it’s already in the bag At least there’s always

some beginning and right away

a far-sighted sequence of events

The watch runs on bacteria and frost

appears grainy like in real life

as forecast but different

you can’t see it and there’s no

condensation to give it the fullness of a dream

in which the sense of touch the conductor

cancels the ticket What remains is the feel

of foreign languages Good morning

I am from here and there I am like a Dane

in Europa Like Eskimos in Antarctica How can I get

to the nearest place and can I have

a light I’m perfecting my tenses because they thrill me

to the bone They make me hot Past continuous

Future perfect Another difficult tense

is the present simple

Translated by the author and Marit MacArthur



Practically Speaking

Try to put yourself in my situation

when there is no situation Every day

I have to give my all and work for a living

Play for high stakes Sort through portfolios

that hold clues to sudden desires

attached to the bra straps and collarbones of women

Every day some sort of weather

corrects itself with us in the background

in which you can also be seen

as you put yourself in your situation

and try to comprehend the background of events

There’s a hospital in the background and cases of malpractice

finally reach an arbitrary limit

like longer verse forms

without the showy repetitions so obligatory

today A summons arrives

from the tax office and if you appear

at the appointment with the right official

notebook in hand you can correct

your record They’ll forgive you Everything

all the logistics will come into play

The cell phone ring tones will harmonize

and float through your mind as usual

like the juice of our practical experience

Translated by the author and Marit MacArthur



The Notary of Finitude

This lady and this gentleman are potential buyers

of one of the plots in our real estate listings

therefore they will acquire plotlessness

This gentleman is an important representation

of another gentleman’s interests

and so sometimes he has interests in representation

The figures gathered in the small yard

are parents But other plots of land

know them as parties to a conflict

Oh assets Oh groups Oh heavens

of interests Shed your light upon us

in our assigned plots

Translated by the author and Marit MacArthur




A Fairytale World

A girl with a bottle of bleach

is writing me a ticket for illegal

parking and she says that I am here for a check

for her impending death Her spirit

is making a deal with me that it will be haunting

the city sanitation department Mine is a police car

and the girl asks me once more

what time is it and the curfew

With a ticket or without you owe a hypothesis

which has not lived long enough to become obsolete

Translated by the author and Marit MacArthur



Realism Protocols A

You strand of virus that writhes at the tip of the penis

you sway the hosts of nations

You string of immune bacteria

researchers admire you and work harder more efficiently for you

You mutation that lurks in the nucleus

you are the gate to the future

You toxic particle that taints the nervous systems of the unborn besides the taste of local


you too are included in the calculations

You artificial currency over which nations wage wars thus encouraged to greater productivity

we bring you baskets full of the harvest

You spreadsheet from robbery so clean that it is invisible

I see your point and admire it

You violence unleashed on the sick and helpless

what else will you say

You grass, grass, grass, and grass again

vegetate on us you will not be sorry





Realism Protocols B

You blob of mucus that I am

I greet you

You nicotine inhaling that shot through my parents’ entrails in days of yore

I bow to you

You lump of dust that has consented to assume my shape

I thank you

You knot of circumstance long dispersed into dirt and dust

Be hailed

You emulsion that peeled off the photographs of beloved faces and flowed into silicates and

You shine for us in darkness

You drool of dust courageously bonded by grease and sperm for a few hours before dry wind

You nourish eternally

You albumin that has undergone numberless petrifications before you became a synapsis in a
           child’s head

Glory be with you

You generous specks, lobopodia, rich phlegm, you particles converging from nowhere onto
           this poem

Let us rejoice

Translated by the author and Marit MacArthur