Jerzy Ficowski trans. by Jennifer Grotz & Piotr Sommer
where the green snake at the bottom of a dark cellar
under the mossy cover of rumbling and wood
rolled around itself and unrolled from itself
like the intricate peeling whittled by a sword
from the sour planetoid of a royal apple
I didn’t look under the lid didn’t see the snake
but I knew him loop after loop
as he drank the wet spots as he grazed the darkness
and I understood down to the bottom after years
that like him on meanderings had slithered to nothing
that it was simply so tortuously
the venomous initial in my alphabet of dreams
and that in autumn he would be invisibly gold
and that he must have had a Latin name
Read Jerzy Ficowski’s “The Initial” and “Getting out of the Mirror,” both translated by Jennifer Grotz & Piotr Sommer, in the print edition of The Arkansas International 5.
Jerzy Ficowski (1924-2006) was a poet, songwriter, and scholar of the Polish Roma population as well as of the writer-artist Bruno Schulz. Recent translations of Ficowski’s poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, Poetry, The Nation, New York Review of Books, and Ploughshares.
Jennifer Grotz’s most recent book of poems is Window Left Open (Graywolf). She is the director of the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conferences.
Piotr Sommer is the author of Continued (Wesleyan) and Overdoing It (Hobart and William Smith Colleges). His collected poems, Po Ciemku Też, (Also In The Dark) appeared in Poland in 2013.