The drawing of foxes, the tentacles
of earth. Whisper the cliffs.
Pivot verticalities. Lumens. What
Let there be 4 & 6.
Earth is air. News of luminous
into shards, debris, annun
nest in windbreaks. Syllables
fly syllables. Syllables fidget
under the seat-belts.
What was our first syllable?
obscures the truth about you.
How are the sparks transformed?
Do crystals conform?
Are pictographs born in the air? Images decomposed;
ether into morphemes.
The leaves of Mayflowers, monocots made
for vertigo, we have lived
centuries under the ice.
In relation to light,
the horizontal force drags our feet down,
the ancient plants shrink, and yet carry
raw, ready, pining.
We saw holy trinities on the trees
A woodcock will sit horizontally
Until it spirals up
and we suffer vertigo
Pilleated woodpeckers, excavators
, makers of eyes
The beech leaves unfurl
Everything suffers vertigo
Even you with this horizontal lake on your head
The blue heaviness
frost over flame, bare bones, fall asleep spin sky
soon come train, fall as leap
glossy whisps view into unlock
my heart open as no keyglossy whisps view into unlock
What air delineates what seas
ether spits out blown
finally projecting forward –
to grow oaks in
you, to roast acorns. Your
heart of spiraling
leaves. A raw seed
To grow oaks in
You, while you carry
your head, these barks
grow boats, of hour-glasses
under the water, branching
Mountains hold water within them
The poem is a woodcock. It crosses the borders; it transgresses.
The poem comes out of bewilderment and also causes it. It is a sensation of leaving your mother’s womb again and confronting wonder. I am referring here to Fanny Howe’s essay on “Bewilderment” in which she defines it as a sudden displacement. As Howe writes, “Bewilderment is an enchantment that follows a complete collapse of reference and reconcilability. It cracks open the dialectic and sees myriads all at once.” It is resolving the irresolvable. Howe quotes a Muslim prayer: “Lord, increase my bewilderment.”
Like Fanny Howe “I am a victim of constantly shifting positions, with every one of these positions stunned by bewilderment.”
Writing, for me, means to be suspended in the air and to be in many places at once. In this way I can be a smuggler of metaphors. I can bilocate. The Catholic Church describes the miracle of bilocation, which has been experienced by mystics, ecstatics, saints, monks, holy persons, and magical adepts, as the appearance of an individual in two places simultaneously. Writing comes from a longing for the presence of another place, for bilocation. My desire for linguistic bilocation is related to my bilingualism which means inhabiting two cognitive places at once. Bilingualism is for those who are unable to let it go, who nest in two places at once. For those who dwell in impossibility. It is like bilocation.
For a Pole to write in English means more than just a change of language. Many poets such as Czesɫaw Miɫosz or Adam Zagajewski claim that writing in your non-native language means death to your poetry; death to your language. For a long time Polish poetry has been governed by a Romantic heritage; a poet had a special calling. Czesław Miłosz says: “What is poetry that does not save nations?” Polish poetry has been inseparably linked to the issues of patriotism and communal matters. One of the reasons was that since 1795, when Poland (under the name of Noble’s Commonwealth) ceased to exist, Polish culture started substituting for Polish institutions. Polish poetry was yoked into national politics. Does it mean that by leaving the Polish language I am casting off the missionary cloak? Can you gain from a distance from the places you have left? By leaving what you love, can you receive back one-hundred times more than what you have lost?
To me Polish brings the smell of white-pine trees, bristling snow on the Tatra Mountains. It is the language of an oak: harsh, robust, sturdy. I hold the touch of this bark until the cortex transforms into kora in my native lungs, but also transforming into a maiden examining forget-me-nots, a maiden carried into an underworld of roots. After all, the abduction is an ancient wedding ritual.
How did the king of the English woods abduct me? To what sounds? 47,000 vowels and consonants stem and sprout from the root of one tree. How did I re-plant an oak so it became an Aspen tree, beech and Mayflowers? Aspen birches, like English words, depend on a disturbance – mainly fire – for regeneration. Yet they display wounds very clearly. Anything carved into them heals into black scars, recording the event.
To change your language you must change your life. It is in English that I encountered my first woodcock. Therefore it will soar in English.
Ewa Chrusciel writes both in Polish and English. In 2003 Studium published her first book in Polish. Her second book in Polish: Sopilki came out in Dec 2009. She has won the 2009 international book contest for her book in English, Strata, which will be published with Emergency Press in March 2011 in the United States. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals such as Fraza, Odra, Zeszyty literackie, Studium, Nowa Okolica Poetow in Poland; Poetry Wales, Aesthetica and Rzeczpospospolita Kulturalna in England; Il Giornale in Italy. Her poetry was also featured in Boston Review (poet’s sampler), Colorado Review, Aufgabe, Process, Lana Turner, hot metal bridge, Mandorla, Canary, Rhino, American Letters and Commentary etc. Her translations of poetry appeared in numerous journals and two anthologies of Polish poetry in English translations: Carnivorous Boy, Carnivorous Bird and Six Polish Poets. She is a Professor of Humanities at Colby-Sawyer College.