Krysztof Kamil Baczyński was a young Polish poet killed in duty during the Second World War. His love poems are addressed to Basia/Barbara--his pregnant wife, who was killed almost a month after his own death during the Warsaw Uprising. She died unaware of that he had been killed. Baczyński's poems address the horrors of war and how love can be a mystical redeeming force in the wake of immense catastrophe.
EVIL LULLABY/ SŁA KOŁYSANKA
The scent of autumn leaves and of your hair,
fear's broken timepiece ticking. Summer's candles
blown out; the stars breathe down cold air
while my grief
like some dark beast runs nightly to your hand.
Do you know how to sleep? Dead alder trees
weep, howling long into the dome of night.
Without a goal, we roam on portless seas;
you know so well how sorrow lurks in wait.
The kindly dragon; now is the sleep of ghosts
frozen; night's lofty monument is waning.
Only a phantom cries, on pitchfork hoist,
only the mewling cats the moon is drowning.
Do you know how to sleep? The crazy poet
has hanged himself amid the pines' dark baying,
while rain drags by the hair a dead wax puppet
through endless streets, to windblown music playing.
all's quiet now.
The night rains on the windows, gathering power;
blinded like me, the wind kneels at our home.
Who stole from us this carefree time of ours,
my little one?
Night of September 10-11, 1940
WHITE MAGIC/ BIAŁA MAGIA
Barbara stands at the mirror
of silence, and her hands reach
to her hair; in her body of glass
she pour silver droplets of speech.
And then like a water pitcher
she fills with light, soon
she has taken the stars within her
and the pale white dust of the moon.
Through her body's trembling prism
white sparks of music will leap
while ermine will creep through her
like the downy leaves of sleep.
Bears are rimmed in its hoarfrost
with polar starlight imbued
and a stream of mice pour through it
in a clamorous multitude.
Till slowly she drifts into sleep,
filled all with milky white,
while time melodiously settles
deep down, in a tumble of light.
So Barbara's body is silver.
The ermine of silence within
arches its white back softly
at the touch of a hand unseen.
January 4, 1942
Three o'clock in the morning
LOVE POEM/ EROTYK
In your hair's torrent, your mouth's river, in
the forest dark as evening
a vain summoning,
a plash in vain.
I'll enwrap you in dusk, in night's rose-flower
and as a branch, scrap, or gesture, the world will turn,
then it will mutely stagger,
pass through the eyes like a blur
and I'll say: not being--I am.
Flowing into you still, and bearing your reflection
in pupils, or like a tear from eyelids hanging,
I'll hear in you silver seas etched by a dolphin,
like inside the shell of your body ringing.
Or in a grove, where you are
a birch tree, pure white air
and the milk of daylight,
a huge barbarian,
bearing a thousand centuries
I'll burst with the copse's noise
into your branches, bird-like.
one day--and a whole age in which to long,
one gesture--and endless storms at once come crashing,
one step--and here you are, and you alone
each time--a spirit waiting in the ashes.
To my darling Basia--Krzysztof
February 2, 1942
"but you are a tree"
R. M. Rilke
In every transformation you are like the ring of time,
just like the year you turn in place and still from where I stand
I see you on the plains, the hills, the trees on the skyline,
in which you pour light for the vessel of your knitted hands.
And like the sea you bear reflections of all kinds of weathers
which flow and play upon the brazen cauldron of the clouds.
You wave your hand--it's winter; then you smile--and autumn comes
to make thorns of the mayflowers with a draft of copper feathers.
You ripen in the apples, fill the plants with yellow juices.
I lock my fingers round the air--then you are every bird
upon the larch, and every bush
or else a cloud of music
and the tree's gold cord.
Oh, logs are burning in the hearths, sleighs glide on powdery snow,
the purring cat stretches and swells into a supple bow.
You're in the river, and in your every move yours smile repeats.
Wake up as snow, as clearing, be the antlers of the deer;
by evening you'll be flesh, and in my flesh you'll fall asleep.
Come morning I'll awake, the weary people will pass by,
and find upon my breast a white and sleeping mayflower.
February 11, 1942
I'll open for you a golden sky
where the white thread of silence is,
like a great nut with sound inside
which breaks in two that it might live
through small green leaves, the song of lakes,
the music that the twilight makes,
until its milky kernel's shown
by the birdlike dawn.
I'll turn for you the unyielding land
into the soft and gracious flight
of thistledown; from objects rend
shadows arching their spines like cats,
fur glistening; they'll fold it all into
the hearts of leaves, into storm-hues,
the gray rains' tangled knot.
And trembling streams of air like smoke
from angels' cottages I'll turn
for you into long lanes; I'll make
the liquid song clear birches sing
until they play, like the lament
of cellos, in pink shoots of light,
an anthem of bees' wings.
Only from my eyes take out
this stabbing shard of glass--the days'
image, by which white skulls are brought
over meadows of blood ablaze.
Only change the cripple's time, cover
the gravestones with a cloak of river,
the dust of battle wipe from my hair,
those angry years'
June 15, 1943
(Polish chanteuse Ewa Demarczyk does a marvelous interpretation of this poem--as well as others--of this last poem called Wiersze Baczynskiego/ War Poems.)
These translations are by Bill Johnston
from White Magic and Other Poems by Krysztof Kamil Baczyński
(Green Integer 138)
which is, unfortunately, out of print; but my library got me a copy via interlibrary loan.
I'd like to post some more at a later time.