To the Letter by Tomasz Różycki

This is part of our special feature, Europe and NATO Since Ukraine.

Translated from the Polish by Mira Rosenthal.



To Yuri Andrukhovych

What else is there to tell? That they use fire to defend
themselves against the winter dark. The city burns,
so they take flesh and blood and build a second
city inside, with walls of breath. If winter turns


away, the tsar will wage his war against the protesters
with metal tanks, false words, and heaps of cash.
And there are those who lead a naked man into the snow
and beat him, whistle, put a broom into his hand


and coo: just try to Hetman us, you Cossack. Then they order
him to pose in their selfies with tarry smoke and brown
smudges on snow, staunch proportions in the background.
Then there’s that moment in the morgue


when, after several hours, all the cellphones
placed on the blood-stained table in the hall
suddenly began to ring at once, showing the call,
the same word flashing on every screen: Mom.



Lacki Brzeg, Ukraine

Today a storm rolls over Lacki Brzeg
and draws the curtain of dust aside: a truck
crawls upward, suddenly a flash of mirror
in motion, then the steppe where those enormous


hot furnaces go on working, continually smelting
time, just like with iron or steel made into fencing
and wire, tracks, posts, a railway bridge, a dog tag
to wear around the neck. When you descend,


you’ll see how many of them are rusting there,
along the shore, in hawthorn and night-scented stock.
A few dogs warm themselves on the white cement.
I have high hopes in this inheritance: I will return here


one day in June or May, move in again, become
a part of this landscape, a fragment, hiding amid
the beans on poles, the rows of short sunflowers,
the dog field, the industrial plant, its ruins.




So many planks and bricks, tiles and roofing,
the dust gets into everything. A phantom demolition.
This used to be a building, bricks with inscriptions
now unreadable. Black rags and bolts, no proof


that color once existed here. And dust gets in.
The nests of ants and mice now totally exposed.
A moving out, an exodus. This once was home.
Once light and heat and fire. Now so much wind.


And so much soot and dirt. Splinters that pierce the skin.
The tearing down went quickly. Now our children
will roam, nomadic and living on the run.
Refugees blackened with stigma. And dust gets in


to everything. Soot-eaten flesh, air-driven splinters,
dark birth-marked race. So many ghosts in the open.
Meanwhile, the wind peels flesh from white bone,
and the rattling skeleton dances past the horizon.


“Euromaidan,” “Lacki Brzeg, Ukraine,” and “Demolition” are published by Archipelago Books in TO THE LETTER, a collection of poems by Tomasz Różycki, translated from the Polish by Mira Rosenthal. Copyright © Tomasz Różycki, 2023. English translation copyright © Mira Rosenthal, 2023.


Published on February 15, 2024.



Print Friendly, PDF & Email