Maria Kardel

The Migrant Song

I speak confusion
And dictionary entries.
A language that tastes of spring water and tough bread.

I sleep in fields. Watch birds of prey hover
In the foreign air.
See sheep trundle back to their pens without thinking twice.

I speak exile
Mince shards of words into dust

Then it gathers around things
So that they mirror home.

Easter Sunday

As I walked to Emaus, I looked
at drops of dew glint in thick grass.
The sun
climbed the sky slowly like a grazing lamb.

My feet were brown with sand.

I smiled at people who passed me by.
I waved my hand at women carrying baskets and buckets,
I stroked stray dogs and fed bits of my way-bread to pigeons.

I felt
an overwhelming love for each and every being, I could share it
like bread and wine, my body
tingled with joy as I though I'd forgiven all my enemies, my heart
overflowing with this message, clean, fresh
and full of light.

I smiled at those two men as well and said the day was glorious.
Their eyes grew wide as they fell to their knees,
obviously taking me for someone else.

(the day was glorious indeed.
The sun crawled across the sky
like a lizard, birds twittered in the olive trees,
a light wind bathed my face in the smell of fresh oranges)

The Poet’s body

(When the Polish poet and Nobel Prize winner
Czeslaw Milosz died in 2004, his body was kept
in a freezer while people debated where to bury him.)

The poet's body is kept on ice
like a giant cockle,
motionless, static, huge in its seriousness,
a body that demands a Christian burial,
a sorrowful goodbye, and all the other petty rites
that signify the completeness of journey.

In his big hands a pen was but a needle.
he is a paper-mache statue, made of squashed poetry books,
displayed on the market square at noon,
big enough to feed everyone with a lump of words.


Grandma! Grandma!
So great to see you,
your candy-floss hair like a cloud,
your hands powdered with flour,
no preaching or bitching from you!

Grandma, Grandma,
your eyes powder-blue,
your skirt like a circus - so round and so true,
I run to your moth-poison hugs,
but can't make my way through -

I stumble and break the taboo,
Grandma, Grandma, is it really you?
Your bosom throbs speaking of truth,
my Daddy, that bastard, that null -
- anytime I see him, I hear you,

Your perfectionist voice in the room,
like a curtain wrapped around a stool,
and he popped right out of the blue,
to shatter all your eugenic views-
- Daddy, Daddy, you bastard, I'm through?

Grandma, you're not dead, are you?
I read about you in papers at school,
you were born in nineteen-thirty-two,
had fair hair, your eyes powder-blue
gave me hot milk when I screamed for you.

And I brought my first poems to you,
knelt before your chair as now I do
and prayed to the Colossus, eyes bedewed
with love that made me part of you.
Am I not true?

Your blood runs in my veins, it's true,
and inside me your weary heart grew,
The war, Nazis, bees swarming in you,
Golden bees against sky so blue,
A bloody finger and a purple wound,

Grandma, I'm cursed with loving you,
You're my ghost in a black fur,
And your words in me pop and bloom,
like tulips in your garden, my doom,
and I'm destined never to be through -

- However hard I try to hate you,
your typewriter scent will pursue
my head, empty like a big glass bulb,
filled only with a message from you,
Grandma, you're not dead, are you?


with flowers like five hands tied
by the wrists
the blackthorn covered with foam
smells of soap

Behind the smudged window
I see white mounds of plum-trees
In my dreams someone sweeps the petals
into big white mountains

Only don't let it go:
the moment the blossoms open,
as the sun rises between the boughs
and so,

every morning, gazing
at bunches of fragrant hands
I read the beginning of end
on rosy petals
in the red veins

Creation of Adam

hands stretched on a vault

one still motionless
the index finger slowly leaving ground
the wrist hardly bears the weight of the palm
as if it were a stone butterfly with its wings still moist
yet unable to fly, resting

the other arm is slashed with a lightning
black as a scar
hand covered by warm living flesh
all muscles strained
everything trembles
the finger aims at his half-dead brother

and so the sleeping hand wakes up
grabs a stone
starts to work with  needle and  kiln

it gets a stick
and on a clay table
writes down all thoughts from the lethargic light-years

and then it grips a whip
a knife
a sword
a gun

as a matter of fact
both hands will never meet
although they barely touch their fingertips
still there's a gap
between them
a visible distance

A drowning hawk

With one cut of a tapered pair of wings
The air breaks into above and below.
Two sheets of moisture and vapour.

The yellow eye never rests.
It darts between the reeds,
Combs the withered blades into sheaves.

Geometry – a secret weapon.
The marshland below breaks into triangles
And squares that move and rustle.
To the left. To the right.  False alarms. 

Wings gather air, then tumble down.
The reeds are silent.
They stifle the mournful screech of lesser birdkind.

The water opens its cold sucking mouth –
Feathers feel lighter than in the air, less taut,
Wings can spread far and wide.
There is no time for struggle; there is only water – cold and wet,
Like a ripe raincloud.

Poetry in Translation

Let me now comment on your choice of words,
concerning my skin that leaps to meet yours under the table,
as your knee presses against mine, my foot dangerously close
to yours.

I don't know why poetry
has to be so complicated, linguistically.

And as to the shirt that
twists into flowers in the lyrical speaker's fists,
I think yours could as well yield
to bloom between my fingers.

You roll words in your mouth as if they were pearls, but listen carefully -
they are too long and too exotic
for naming a kiss.
All fancy metaphors seem to be palatable
if they are not spoken in our native tongue.

The wave of heat from my cheek
shall not
burn the printout, master. The way you hold
your pen
is absolutely thrilling.



(c) 2006 University of Sheffield Department of English Literature :: designed by nagzaka :: maintained by Bunnyphobia