Zuzanna Ginczanka

Translated from the Polish by Alex Braslavsky


Piercing cherries, red apples and ruby, fragrant hearts, 
in the bending branches they unfurl a maturity cut in the sweet delay of 
               June –
– I pick my hand through bramble sticks and comb weedy greenery with 
               my palm –
far off in the greying mist, gentle goodness with a quiet silence littered 

I wait inert, I wait for an evening
that will shine for me in the moon’s hilt –
I wait passive, I wait for nights,
that will slide down the floral hillside.
I wait painfully, I wait sleeplessly
until the days and mornings close radiant,
and when my wait is being fulfilled, 
I know that I’m not waiting for them, not for them –

In sleep’s rare intervals, 
in nerves tensed
into suffering chaos
the silence changes...
in gray concentration
clocks loom – –
– – but in lilac alleys
               hope blooms – –
with flowers, 
with lilacs,
with the hour 
it flowed –
bustles of lilacs
in a whistle
it broke
and died – –
the wind

The four-leaf
clover blossoms,
the slender towering
virginal lilies, 
and five-petaled pleats
of lilac blossoms,
the purest teardrop –
a syncopation of silence 
that I will recount

Once there were yellow, coppery stars, 
they fell with a clang in the nettle weeds –
a deaf and crooked
lone nettle bearing them upon its flat leaf –
once there was a moon burning through,
until it turned into a round thaler –
fell ringing atop a willow
and there it falls asleep at dusk –
There is only one girl left – fair, alone, silent, and pale
she walks about the world, walks about the world and whispers, whispers: 
               – world’s end already?
far off in the greying mist, gentle goodness and quiet silence littered 

And I think I’ll go ahead of me down a country-sunny street,
where furrows freshly cut into the eastern sky will sweep –
and I’ll probably go east on a sun-filled, sandy road
(the sun will roll bulbous down my path to the west)

On the right the spring melt will glisten, like a glass sheet, 
On the horizon – to the left the flatness will unfurl into a fan 
I will grow sad: on this lonely meadow in the brightness of morning
Your plane will not land before me – o, Surprise. –

The meadows wait faithlessly, like pale, tired faces, 
Instead of you, the pilot of events, there is a void, the pilot of non-events, 
I hold a plucked spruce branch by fist – green, swollen a hundred-fold
and biting needles, tart as solitude before April.


O pale mothers of blushing children, o fertile, proud, joyful mothers,
You will go and pluck plump cherries with your hands, smooth from 
               children’s caresses –
You will go in the August heat to celebrate the fertile wheat of plentiful 
You will go barefoot to worship the swollen, fat, sandy chernozem with 
               your feet – –
I saw the lips (like fruit pulp) of country girls, half asleep and languorous.
In the resounding warmth of sleeping gardens nostalgia slumbers in 
               cobweb threads –
Within orchard gooseberries seconds of sudden, fragrant ripening sprout 
               with sap.
– You will go and gather in your nostrils golden resin scents from warm 
               trees – –
In midday’s sweet sunny winds, go and proclaim the holiness of giving 
in blades of rye, look with laughter below the sun, as in the daily bread of 
               summer joy –
You can praise the end of bloom, which becomes creation’s beginning.
(Everything passes away – nothing ends in the processing of parched sun).
And at night take up straw baskets and grasp languor without limit –
– You will go and celebrate apples crimson and dreams of ripe 
In the branches of the pear tree hangs your moon, like a Christmas tree 
               gilded dugout,
and in the lips of raspberries are silent legends of hearts that the noon 
               has bled – –


Wandering Jew
Wherever I go – there will always be a forward –
and every step forward will bring me back –
(o earth – –) 
in the borderless scribble, madnesses slumber without power
inquiet madnesses of circular escapes 
(o earth – –)
because every bit of rest in Eurasia and Africa 
is merely an unattainable, – merely an unattainable –
wherever I rest – it will always be: forward 
and every procession becomes a return –
(o earth – –)
and there will always be a desire to anchor the heart
and there will always be a wanderlust: sweet return
(there is a path traversing the lit planets
and there is the deasil of a silver clock’s turning, 
o earth – –)

I looked at the marquise, at the breasts of porcelain,
on at the fullness of a girl’s most beautiful neck 
(o time – –) 

I sifted through the particulate fates of another’s life
I loved an aphorism melted from heart tears
(o time – –)
Today there is again a marquise in unmet satin, –
Today there is again the moderato of a lunar fantasy:
there are returns to what never was –
(o time – –)

Zuzanna Ginczanka (1917-1945) was a Polish-Jewish poet of
the interwar period. She began writing poems at the age of
four, published her first poems at fourteen, and was nationally
recognized for her poetry by sixteen. Her first and only
collection, On Centaurs, was widely lauded in Poland upon its
release in 1936. She was arrested in Kraków in 1944.
Tragically, she was shot by the Gestapo no more than a few
days before Kraków was liberated by the Soviets on 18
January 1945. She died at the age of twenty-eight.

Alex Braslavsky is a graduate student, scholar, translator, and poet.
She writes scholarship on Russian, Polish, and Czech poetry through
a comparative poetics lens. Her translations of poems by Zuzanna
Ginczanka are forthcoming with World Poetry Books in Spring of 2023. Alex is working on her first poetry collection, Answering Machine.

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