Ryszard Krynicki, translated by Clare Cavanagh

THree poems

Now That I know

Now that I know you didn’t die:

the grind of a braking tram, the telegram,
a sharply shattered glance, the dream about a bloodless child,
the weather forecast and—whatever happened

now that I know it’s not about you,
they speak of someone else to others, strangers, kin,
in graying voices

they become mirrors


Citizen R. K. Doesn’t Live

Citizen R. K. doesn’t live
with his wife (or any object
that is his own), he doesn’t live by the pen,
by the indigestible fountain pen marked “Parker”
that sticks in his throat: he is a sado-
(he gulps the ink that streams
from the fountain pen marked “Parker”)
masochist (with this pen he revives the corpses
of days gone by, so as to harass
them): born (he doesn’t
know why): into a worker’s family, but just the same
he freeloads (on speech): an honorary
blood donor (does foreign blood flow
in his veins): against our
death penalty: he tried to smuggle
something across the border: a birth
certificate, his collective
organism, and a fountain pen (“Parker”): he
doesn’t jot down thoughts, he communicates telepathically
(there’s a snake
in his telephone) and he corrupts underaged
wristwatches: to fall asleep he counts to 19
84 (isn’t he counting on nothing?). He lives,
though it remains unclear

whether he deserves such a life


My beloved

My beloved, moments ago
you still walked in your favorite black dress
beneath a sun projecting
shadows of shifting triangles
(legible even to me, who
never understood geometry):

the distance grows, draws close,
a relentless straight line
penetrates my heart,
between us lies not even the smoke
of a train departing years ago

but this intimate remoteness
in labyrinths of seals, stamps,
coiled wire and borders

weaves its barbed net


Ryszard Krynicki's Five Poems can be read in the print edition of The Arkansas International 1.



Ryszard Krynicki is a poet, editor, publisher, and translator. With Adam Zagajewski and Stanisław Barańczak, he is a major poet of Poland’s “Generation of ’68.” Acclaimed both for his own work and his translations of Paul Celan, Nelly Sachs, and other modern German poets, he received the Zbigniew Herbert International Literary Award in 2015.


Clare Cavanagh is Frances Hooper Professor of Arts and Humanities at Northwestern University. Her most recent book, Lyric Poetry and Modern Politics: Russia, Poland and the West, received the National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism in 2011. Her translation of Ryszard Krynicki, Magnetic Point: Selected Poems, is forthcoming from New Directions.