In my dream the bus stops at the cemetery
the moon is at the very heart of concentric circles
a crumb of the apocalypse
suddenly tears from it
sunset light is dripping from above
black smoke is crawling through the streets of the town
my college friends from Toruń, and my aunt
are waiting for the end of the world
get in they say there is still one more seat
Poem from The Wall & Beyond
The End of the World
Everyone hid in concrete.
Busy with final errands,
some remained out in the streets.
They could see the sky above.
The sun, too close to the moon,
burst suddenly. We saw through
the concrete’s dirty windows,
it was dark and cold outside.
Dense fog came. “If I must die,
I want to go out and see
how the world ends,” said the child
in an old woman’s body.
The air was too pure to breathe
at first. She lay on the ground,
expecting death. The high sky,
the color of mud, bubbled.
Drops were falling like stars;
then burst into a vapor
Huge flowers formed in the air,
intensely green and solid.
A wall of fantastic shapes
unrolled. Her death behind her,
she only feared the woman
with a child, once seen on a train.
The child called “Let’s go and pick
dandelions!” The woman snarled,
“Sit down!” Their train keeps rolling
through a world that never ends.
Poem from The Butterfly’s Choice
(First published in Off The Coast;
also in Levure Littéraire and Pisarze).
Pupil of the Eye
You could have made me your magnifying glass
to view the beginning; or the patient lenses
of a cat or a gorilla, as they perceive you
surrounding, gel-like, your pupils which
keep growing in amnesia and madness.
But no, you have placed your weary sight,
tearful because of old age and sadness,
in my mind, to witness the final days.
Squeezed between your heavy eyelids,
I crouch as your upper one falls slowly
(though for you a life is but a blink).
A conscious pupil, obedient, I register
smells, sounds, sights, touch, the body’s
revolutions, and the world’s everything.
I lack the cat’s patience, or that of the gorilla,
as she puts her daily food on her tongue,
watching, ever watching, her right paw
not knowing her left, as either one brings
termites into her mouth; splits a nut,
scratches an itch, or supports a cub.
Her body being nothing but a body,
she seeks not to entomb it in a neverland,
for how could she dispose of so much matter?
Other than guarding, her eye is pure sight.
Her body in harmony with the elements,
the gorilla cannot create a god or name
the one who, gel-like, surrounds the pupils
of his divine eye. Yes, she sees—translating
wonder into her body’s necessities.
So you have engendered your eye’s pupil,
after concentrating the All into another spark
—me. Between the shutting of your eyelids,
I slowly move my eyes from my body’s wants
to the melting ice-caps, the acidic rain falling
onto the fishing spots, barbeque yards, and
the vast fields hiding keepsakes from Auschwitz;
to the Hutu cutting the Tutsi heads under the eye
of a green triangle; animals dying in torment
in corporate slaughter houses; calves chained
in tiny tents and choking into a most delicate veal.
I see language vomiting itself in advertisements,
scholars’ treatises, and prosperity sermons;
a baboon for twenty minutes eating a baby-deer
alive, starting with its hind legs; the deer shrieks;
eaten alive by the world’s politics, a Syrian child
shrieks too, over its parents’ bodies, while others
eat, eat, eat into misery and disease; to fulfill
every word of a madman’s revelation.
You watch the world’s last days with your own eye
—me. Your pupils are few and weary, for most
have long solidified into passive fossils.
And yet the starry night grows into a shiny sponge,
the grey egret slowly flies over the highway;
the dove coos at a female in the shrubbery.
And yet between the blinking of your eyelids,
I steal time and fold my momentary lips to deposit
a kiss on my lover’s forehead, in passing.
Snow is falling upon your childhood garden
It covers the cherry tree and blackcurrant bush
Your tiny pink paw is gripping the rope
Pulling the small wooden sleigh, you are going out
Together with kids from the neighborhood
you will run up-and-down the hill, tirelessly
Till your pink paws turn purple; the frost bite
makes your cheeks red—but you won’t mind
Snow is falling on the bus that pulls out
from the Soldiers’ Street. It is Christmas Eve
There are only two passengers, you and I
Not a sound but the engine and snow
We seek sanctuary in an ancient myth
about the manger, Magi, a wolf and a sheep
As if in a horror movie, we close our eyes
for just a moment. This night, time recedes
Snow is falling onto the roofs of townhouses
the firs’ branches bend under its burden
You are pulling me close to you, saying
look how much I have built, a paper hut
a fish-bladder window, a feather wall
a sawdust floor, and a garden of dust—
your joy’s companions, where you’ve spent
flickers of time with loved ones and friends
Snow is falling on your snow-white hands
one of them has lost, the other retained its grip
Resting on your closed eyelids, the flakes
do not melt. It is snow’s final victory.
The Day I Became An American
Hello passengers streaming
onto the CTA train
the Latino construction workers,
the East-European maids
Hello the young, texting one another,
the shy, the uncertain ones
Hello those who’ve made a mistake
and those madly in love
Hello farmers selling their produce
at the market place
Hello poets sipping afternoon tea
at their kitchen tables
Hello scholars searching for truth
in schemes’ quagmires
Hello mothers of sick children
without health insurance
Today I am telling you,
I am one of you
Poem from The Butterfly’s Choice
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