Grzegorz Kwiatkowski

Translated from the Polish by Michal Ciebielski


they put the casket in front of the house:
it was padded with a pink fabric
and looked like a magnolia
and they took pictures with it

there was no crying or buzzing of flies
someone played a hymn sung by Enrico Caruso
when the sun set and it became completely dark
they lit lanterns and hung them from the trees

then they took the corpse out of the casket and danced with him

his wife stepped on his feet as usual
and told him with guilt and longing:
why did you do this to us
how could you
how could you

and he replied:
I died so that you could believe in something again
your divine happiness and delight
is for me the highest reward
for the hours in which my pulse slowed
and I heard your whimpering

Mr. Cogito and the written letter

the war is going on and German soldiers visit Mr. Cogito
they ask him if he is hiding Jews in his basement
Mr. Cogito because he respects the truth
and will never lie to get his way
in my basement I’m hiding fifteen Jews
among them six children, two men
and seven women

a leaf of plaster falls off of the wall
in the hallway the lightbulb flickers off

but a black cat
lovingly purrs
and brushes between their legs

Mr. Cogito steps down into the basement
to get a new lightbulb
then twists it in
and turns on the light

and stands in the window
and sees the Germans
taking the Jewish family away

next he opens the Bible
takes a pencil and underlines:
do not break your oath
all you need to say is simply
yes yes
no no

Arthur Schopenhauer

Arthur Schopenhauer’s papa
committed suicide
and in doing so sentenced
his own son
to a lifetime of agony

dear Arthur
the Upanishads didn’t help you
nor Buddhist Wisdom
nor empathy nor esthetics

all of this just
a luminous substitute

it’s four in the afternoon
I see you taking walks
around Frankfurt
together with your
funny dog -
little devil

you’re probably thinking
of your wretched mother
and of your father repeating
in perpetuity:
you must live Arthur
you must live


he said that he had beaten me
and that the truth was on his side

both of us died:
a spider made a dwelling out of his eye
a fox made a burrow out of my belly

I don’t hold it against him
I’m glad that we achieved equality after death
neither one a slave to the other

however, sometimes I feel bad for my teeth
I had beautiful and strong teeth

Grzegorz Kwiatkowski is a Polish poet and musician from Gdansk. He has published six collections of poetry and his work has been translated into several languages. He is a cocreator and member of the Polish alternative band Trupa Trupa.

Michal Ciebielski is a translator of modern and contemporary Polish poetry.

Create a website or blog at