Scorched Maps

Mira Rosenthal, translated from the Polish written by Tomasz Rózycki

copyright ©2013

I took a trip to Ukraine. It was June.
I waded in the fields, all full of dust
and pollen in the air. I searched, but those
I loved had disappeared below the ground,

deeper than decades of ants. I asked
about them everywhere, but grass and leaves
have been growing, bees swarming. So I lay down,
face to the ground, and said this incantation —

you can come out, it’s over. And the ground,
and moles and earthworms in it, shifted, shook,
kingdoms of ants came crawling, bees began
to fly from everywhere. I said come out,

I spoke directly to the ground and felt
the field grow vast and wild around my head.

Notes on the Poem

This week’s poem is from the 2014 Griffin Poetry Prize-shortlisted collection, Colonies, by Mira Rosenthal, translated from the Polish written by Tomasz Rózycki (Zephyr Press). Of the collection, the judges said: “In Mira Rosenthal’s translation of this work, English-speaking readers can themselves confront the sonnet as something supple, fresh and a little bit strange. Rózycki’s quirky and self-deprecating humour permeates the poems. So does his sense of the fundamental homelessness of 21st-century human beings. Nine of these seventy-seven sonnets begin with some variation on the line ‘When I began to write, I didn’t know . . .’ and blossom into wry and hilarious reflections on the writing life. Others exude a heart-rending nostalgia for a world that is constantly being translated from meaning into money, and thus constantly destroyed.” Listen to Mira Rosenthal and Tomasz Rózycki read from Colonies here.

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