Sixteen Poems by Wojciech Bonowicz (b. 1967)


Who’s ashamed for having written about God?

God no longer has that letter: he tears up our requests.

Penetrates our diaries and kindly erases

confessions dictated by youth and naïve faith.

He could be more tenacious — L. says about God.

Let him be rather more like us — what a foolish human dream.

Quietly enters the room and wraps me up.

The body’s full of thorns. The sweat thick and sweet.


Translated by Piotr Florczyk





Here in the middle of nowhere the last bus

is the last light. The sky rarely clears up

but even then it’s not obvious why

the moon doesn’t reflect on the wet grass.

In the darkness roads disappear last whispers

hide away in their burrows.

If you want to go you can go. If you lie down

you’ll be amazed how quickly you’ll find yourself

where you had set out to be.

Translated by Piotr Florczyk





Why exactly did they choose you? You don’t know,

thinking in the dark. You go to the small window:

everything is in order and you’re inside that order

as if judging it from each place. You don’t know

if darkness is still working and how it orders things.

Many actions inside you many unfinished stories.

One is especially painful like a movement against everyone.

A small window: eyes lifting silver lines off the ground.

Translated by Piotr Florczyk




From the Start

These days I see more. 
Some people even ask

me: What do you see there

that I can’t see.

It’s started to wear me out

staring straight into what

some people can’t even

get into their minds. God

is my witness that when

at last I explain how matters stand

they say pleasantly,

You could be wrong about it.

A few more came by, but they

don’t ask me anything. They want

me to hand over my eyes.

Perhaps that sort of bliss lost its hold on me.

Translated by Marit MacArthur and Marta Pilarska




A poem

from the start closes you up in itself.

It doesn’t want

you to look around to search

for other words

from other poems.

You sit on the corner of the stone


like a sheet of paper.

Helpless agreeing

you don’t breathe. The poem

doesn’t allow it.

On the stone you cannot

wriggle use

a bed a clock a map

or all the rest

of the imagination.

A poem

has its own imagination.

It built it for itself in you

and then closed

to release itself.

You have to wait

on the corner of the stone

where sometimes a light flashes

the golden dust of hope.

In the end a poem

will open itself. The stone

lets you go: a sheet of paper

that begins to breathe.

Translated by Marit MacArthur and Marta Pilarska





Celan cries out once more. He wakes up again 
beside a ditch full of mouths.

Celan — a word that becomes the body

of an old man.

A river that flows

two currents

in one bed.

Translated by Marit MacArthur and Marta Pilarska




You will be alone.

Surrounded by ocean.

You won’t even be given

a glimpse of a ship.

On the waves your every

breath will be

like setting a baby

into a crib.

And like so many

others before you

who met their end

in the depths where it lay

at that moment you gasp

and, do what you may,

you watch the baby

swimming away.

Translated by Marit MacArthur and Marta Pilarska




When I see soft and broken

boys when they meet in the evenings

and become whole and tough, I think again of

the same stories that want

to have their five minutes in each body.

Translated by Marit MacArthur and Marta Pilarska



The Trees

Between us come the dead. And we

imagine that they don’t forget

about us. We say: Aha, they came back,

they missed us. All the while they came

between us as between the trees.

Translated by Marit MacArthur and Marta Pilarska





My friend leaves today for Copenhagen

where the author of Either/Or won great fame

for eight months he’ll be washing dishes

and then to London he’ll make his way

it should have been summer

but the rain came down and it’s over goodbye

two blinds boys were playing in the park

and one shouted to the other: you dummy don’t gape

Translated by Marit MacArthur and Marta Pilarska




A Door 

Hidden under the tree where we shouldn’t be

We get a nod from those who run past laughing.


At the top of the tree, over and over someone slams a door.

I’m watching my foot that drinks from a mud puddle.


Some children’s clothes get sopping wet on the line.

We’re waiting for the sky to be smeared with more legible patterns.


Translated by Marit MacArthur and Marta Pilarska




Editorial Office 

Off they go arm in arm, while I am held only by this text

indifferent to the rest, I see letters even on the windows.

They go down in my notes, the words pressed close

together while at the same time I try to write

them out with correct spelling, each by itself.


Translated by Marit MacArthur and Marta Pilarska




Private History

“It doesn’t hurt,” she says in her sleep. I know she says this

to me. Then she goes back to the place that fear


showed her. A cat and a pigeon a moment ago:

pursuit and escape. A flower swallowed in silence


fingers write in the air the first few letters

of the day: It doesn’t hurt. “It’s going to hurt,” I say.


Translated by Marit MacArthur and Marta Pilarska




The Public

Why these poems about death?

I bite into a pear.


Bitter. In the broken flesh

a peerless white artist


makes me laugh with his

lively movements.


Translated by Marit MacArthur and Marta Pilarska





Blood of the swamp brims over and fatigues the surroundings

pulling out from underground a pack of lies and sour moods.


People here are tough. If you punch one

you can break off a piece of an arm. But you can’t hurt them.


Though when the lord of flies pointed his finger there

they began to shake and jump through the windows.


Blood of the swamp pours into the houses. It put out the stove

and reminded people that their place can move.


You need to run away: the moon comes up

and calls to itself those who don’t believe in their own strength.


Running way is not the same as rejection.

Running away involves longing. The solemn moment, returning somewhere.


The strongest go through “a great range of mountains.”

Their hope is unfounded. That’s why it doesn’t exclude anyone.


The dry eye of the song can see movement in every valley.

The swamp never moves backward. The song of those who run away is wild, unhappy.


Translated by Marit MacArthur and Marta Pilarska




Political Observation

If he were buried 

he would start the bugs’ party.


Leave someone by his bed

who will whisper in his ear: “I will destroy you.”

He will recover.


He doesn’t believe

that which limits your freedom

after a while may become

part of it.


Translated by Marit MacArthur and Marta Pilarska