Magnetic Point by Ryszard Krynicki

Translated from the Polish by Clare Cavanagh.
This is part of our special feature Governing the Migration Crisis.


Almost Like

No, not a dream: almost like
a street in a strange town
that you’ll never see now,
you recall words and addresses,
so few remain:
deaf telephone, deaf snow,
a crowbar’s traces on the door—what can be saved?
Two sentences, the house’s number, don’t waste them, keep them
for a black hour.
Go, don’t look back.

Proceed with both eyes open.



So What 

So what if you can be human if you love equally
your own and others‘ children;

so what if you can be masculine, feminine, and female,
so what if you can’t manage on your own;

so what if you are the one and only, all-embracing, righteous homeland,
since we have to die for you;

so what if sometimes nothing revives us like you,

so you’re immortal,

so what,





Night, an empty compartment. I want
nothing, fear no one. Glowing in the distance,
the little flames of purgatory: my city.



Ryszard Krynicki―an editor, publisher, and acclaimed translator as well as a poet―lives in Krakow with six cats and his collaborator Krystyna Krynicka, with whom he runs a5, one of Poland’s finest publishing houses. His poetry has won the Polish Poets’ Award, the Robert Graves-PEN Club Award, and the Zbigniew Herbert International Literature Prize.

Winner of the NBCC in criticism, Clare Cavanagh is the Frances Hooper Professor of Arts and Humanities at Northwestern University. Her translations include Wislawa Szymborska’s Map: Collected and Last Poems, with Stanislaw Baranczak, and Adam Zagajewski’s Slight Exaggeration.



This excerpt from Magnetic Points is published by permission of New Directions. Copyright © 2017 Ryszard Krynicki. Translation copyright © 2017 Clare Cavanagh.


Published on October 2, 2017.



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