pixel Page 18FCEBD2B-4FEB-41E0-A69A-B0D02E5410AERectangle 52 Przejdź do treści
“I was eight or nine when knowledge’s two sides, / both ends of the telescope, resolved in my heart.” ...
2020-07-22 09:00:00

De revolutionibus orbium coelestium

Illustration by Joanna Łańcucka
De revolutionibus orbium coelestium
De revolutionibus orbium coelestium

A small house stands on a grain of poppyseed,
Dogs howl at a poppy moon.

Czesław Miłosz


I was eight or nine when knowledge’s two sides,
both ends of the telescope, resolved in my heart.
At last I understood: an atom encircled by
electrons and ellipses of planets orbiting
the sun on a chart in my grandparents’ dark
encyclopedia were, in fact, the same thing.

Maybe in the deepest waters on each electron,
an ichthyosaurus or a fishing boat
could slice through the quicksilver sea, and dawn
could emerge above the earth, ultramarine
or gold. A single bristle in a cat’s coat,
a finger or a hair, could hold endless small galaxies,

while others loom infinitely large for those who peer
at their moons after wrapping up a night shift.
Wherever we look, something disappears
or swims into view. What’s vital here is elsewhere
mere dust on some undetectable cosmic orbit.

I’ve learned nothing much that matters since those years.

Illustration by Joanna Łańcucka
Illustration by Joanna Łańcucka

Author’s note:

There are poems that can accommodate further explanation, even some that require glosses, footnotes, context, illuminating insights from the author. But this one doesn’t. It’s a closed circuit, and further discussion can only spoil it. If we examine it minutely, I don’t suppose that intuitions I had about the universe when I was eight or ten were scientifically accurate. To unpack each of the lines, to isolate each from others, to check them for logic, to bump up against the knowledge of encyclopedias – well, that way stupidity lies. Rather like, “There’s only Beatrice, and she’s not here” or “The love that moves the sun and other stars”. But I’m also convinced that on some deeper level such intuitions were and remain correct. It’s possible to feel, receive and understand them but only between the lines, in an extraverbal manner, though of course conveyed through words, since what’s a poem if not a collection of words? Poetry, like a smuggler’s boat, transports one thing on the deck and something else entirely behind the bulkhead in a dark chest. And that’s why I wrote about this subject in a poem and not as a scientific treatise.

Illustration by Joanna Łańcucka
Illustration by Joanna Łańcucka

Translated from the Polish by Karen Kovacik

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Jacek Dehnel

Jacek Dehnel

was born in 1980 in Gdańsk. He is a poet, writer and translator. He has recently published a zombie thriller about a group of Polish patriots who rise from the dead "Ale z naszymi umarłymi" [But with Our Dead]. He lives in Warsaw.