Reading: No One, Everyone by Bronisław Maj

Polish poet Bronisław Maj (b. 1953) is celebrated as one of the finest poets of his generation and recepient of some reputable literary prizes (almost no author biography on the Internet fails to mention the Prizes). I found a short verse in a translation by Katarzyna Kietlinska and David Malcolm:

No one, everyone
No one wants my words
of love, no one needs words
of hate, of the inexhaustible miracle
of the world, no one. November wind, leafless
and loveless, passes relentless through the sleepless
city; they all listen, now it
speaks.

After the first lines, the poet becomes a pauper, he can peddle his words of love all he wants, or even sell words of hate out of frustration. The more he becomes lyrical and dramatica bout the miracle of this world, the bleaker becomes his outlook in it. I see him roaming the streets of a city he knows so well, the cold and relentless wind blowing in his face (the four times ‘less’ in the translation is not very beautiful, perhaps intentionally?)

It speaks. The November wind or the city? I believe the wind makes the city speak, and it speaks in a language older than words, understood by Everyone. Doesn’t it speak about the memory? Whether it is Warsaw or Łódź (wher Maj was born), Polish cities have chilling memories. Maj wrote a book about Tadeusz Gajcy, a poet who died during the Warsaw Uprising in 1944. That sort of event changes the texture of reality. Blow a cold November wind through a city that once underwent such horrors, and the stones begin to speak.

Image Wikimedia

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