THREE POEMS by Bronka Nowicka trans. Katarzyna Szuster (from POLISH)
Things and people often disappear at night, so in the morning you account for yourself with the help of your hand. See if you have incurred losses of yourself. There are ten toes on your feet, five in each flock. None should be missing from the herd. Your eyes are in your head, tucked in alone on each side of your face. Two knees, elbows and two clavicles. The twinless tongue lies in its burrow. One mouth, though cracked in half. Close it when you’re done counting. “I still have me” – affirm and write the result on a paper slip. Or admit: “I have lost my mind.”
One is a human, alone under their skin. Ask the foreman what one means – he will point to himself. He also knows what two is: a sparrow’s wings, a pair of shoes, eyes. Human hands: a measure of duality hanging by the sides. Anything they both take at one time means two. Two has its own weight, can be grasped. Immediately after two begins a lot. Far too many: fingers, hair, years. It is difficult for the foreman to tell how much he has. So he does not count and remains incalculable.
Apprentice: How is the illusion created?
Foreman: You employ word machines and kaleidoscopes.
Apprentice: Is the item big?
Foreman: Not very, but stretchy.
Apprentice: What is it?
Foreman: Imaginary in the back of life. A box theater.
Apprentice: And the repertoire?
Foreman: Light. You can’t hear existential refrains.
Apprentice: What else is not there?
Foreman: Death preliminaries. Just mirabilia, skullduggery of welfare.
Apprentice: Isn’t that a burden?
Foreman: Yes, because there’s no growth.
Foreman: It’s not real.
Apprentice: Who visits this place?
Foreman: The ones mistakenly in love.
Katarzyna Szuster-Tardi is a translator. She earned her M.A. in English studies from the University of Lodz, Poland. She has translated various Polish poets into English, such as Miron Białoszewski, Justyna Bargielska, Bronka Nowicka, and Hanna Janczak. Recently, she co-translated Kim Yideum’s Hysteria into Polish. She also rendered Don Mee Choi’s poems into Polish in the collection Odmiany Łapania Tchu[Variants of Catching Breath]. Her newest translations of poems and essays have been published in Conjunctions, Circumference, Hunger Mountain Review, Sextant Review, Denver Quarterly, Michigan Quarterly Review, Tripwire, LIT, Berlin Quarterly, and Seedings. Photo Credit: Marta Zgrajka