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Krystyna Lenkowska

Krystyna Lenkowska

Has published nine volumes of poetry three of which have appeared in bilingual Polish-English editions: Keep off the Primroses, 1999, Eve’s Choice, 2005 and An Overdue Letter to a Pimply Angel, 2014. Her poems, fragments of prose, translations, essays, literary notes and interviews have been published in numerous journals and anthologies in Poland (Fraza, Odra, Topos, Twórczość, Zeszyty Literackie), the USA (Absinthe, Boulevard, Chelsea, Confrontation, The Normal School, Spoon River Poetry Review), Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Macedonia, Mongolia, India, Romania and Ukraine. Her poem “The Eye of John Keats in Rome” won the first prize at the Sarajevo international poetry competition “Seeking for a Poem” in 2012. In 2013, at the DITET E NAIMIT Poetry Festival (Macedonia-Albania), she received the MENADA Prize for the special creativity. Lenkowska is a member of the Association of Polish Writers (SPP).




* * *


This day and night come

when we sit down to wine which has matured

between steppes


in the vats of stagnant time

we dip our lips and fingers

as if we plunged in it whole


and bite after bite

draught after draught

we share this bread this wormwood

somewhere between steppes


until blue absinthe covers the table to the horizon

as if our last vat had cracked

and your eyes came to me free


and were the steppe.



In the Color of the Hollyhock – Chopin’s Waltz


He played

a waltz then meadow and air

she soared above the bittersweet grass above a sonata

and above a prelude

as if she hadn’t yet lived in her body

she said and invited him to her place

tomorrow afternoon


Mon Dieu!

she smokes a cigar wears pants

(is she a woman?) hats like flambeaux

her white-red costume

it’s rumored the blood of a Polish king runs in her veins

and she used to dance mazurkas polonaises

my God!


before long

he’ll move his fashionable grand piano to her place

she writes smart books each day after supper this new mother

like a pharaoh’s wife

she calls him her genius and her weakling

her children keep guard at the bedroom door hoping

he’ll die


on Majorca

he’s rasping and dying

the clamminess in his fingers and the monotonous

chords of rain are killing him

he fears death and compassion

the island doctors say he’ll die soon or

has died already


in Paris

salons await him

a dandy he puts on a gilet the color of hollyhock and gloves

like buckwheat white as snow

a crimson storm surges in his chest

its sparks will ignite everything

into a perfect fire


he coughs

and spits blood

behind his breastbone Polish homesickness

sleepless like cosmic dawn

she’s so terribly alive and beautiful

all around kings of life drink gobble have fun after them flood

and fire


far away there

he dreamed of light

and of the sky rising over a birch wood in pure fifths

and octaves

here beamed ceilings like tree limbs fall into hellish triads

who’s that?

play sonny don’t spare any sounds

don’t stop.


Translated by Ewa Hryniewicz-Yarbrough and Teresa Cedar



The Eye of John Keats in Rome


For hours it stands in the window

once in a while it casts itself onto the Spanish Steps

or into the Tiber


on the steps

it bursts and then like a gel medusa

returns intact into the dark-skinned palm of a street vendor


in the water

it swims and then flies to dry its wings

it sweeps the Hadrian arches of the bridges

the sky of the Vatican domes

the horizons’ caravans of pines


in the evening it orders the same wine

in the same bar

at last it returns to the window and writes on the pane with its finger


the crowds on the steps won’t let it sleep

it doesn’t know what to do next

so it starts all over


from the pupil

from the core.



                                       (...) death is a simple thing

                                                      K. I. Galczynski



Death is simple as a cradle

both are miracles of loss and gain

in the perfectly perfected present tense

is – isn’t

isn’t – is

there’s material evidence 

beyond all doubt. 



Obituary for Wisława Szymborska


                    After a life duly bearable and unbearable

With her separateness concealed like the Nobel medal

In her drawer

Wisława Szymborska died

In her bed

In her sleep

On a bitterly cold night

She didn\'t like to bother anyone

And quietly disappeared the way 

One slips out to pick up matches at a newspaper kiosk

While others are having the time of their lives

So in such frigid weather

Let the others remain under down comforters while she finishes

Dreaming herself to the very end

In perfected silence

Where a moment

Is crystal clear and in the morning particles of gold

Fall from the sun so lightly

They elude the law of



Translated by Ewa Hryniewicz-Yarbrough and Teresa Cedar



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