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“You impregnated me and I gave birth to pearls. / Authentic. Look.” Two poems by Anna Świrszczyńska ...
2020-01-08 09:00:00

Two Poems

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, "Woman in Bed, Profile, Getting Up, plate eight from Elles", 1896; Art Institute of Chicago
Two Poems
Two Poems


She came and stood beside me.
I said: I’m ready.
I’m bedridden in the surgery clinic in Kraków,
they’ll cut me open.

I have many powers in me. I can live,
I can run, dance and sing.
All of that is in me, but if need be,
I’ll walk away.

I take stock of my life.
I was a sinner,
I banged my head on the ground,
I asked for forgiveness
from earth and sky.

I was beautiful and hideous,
wise and stupid,
very happy and very unhappy,
oftentimes I had wings
and I sailed through the air.

I trampled thousands of trails in the sun and in snow,
I danced with a friend under the stars.
I saw love
in many human eyes.
I ate with admiration
my slice of happiness.

Now I’m bedridden in the surgical clinic in Kraków,
and she stands beside me.
they’ll cut me open.
Outside the window there are May trees beautiful with life,
and in me are humility, fear and peace.


From “Building the Barricade and Other Poems of Anna Swir” (Calypso Editions, 2011)



You impregnated me and I gave birth to pearls.
Authentic. Look.

You’re staring, astonished,
scared by this wealth,
which you do not understand.

Pebble, you who triggered the avalanche,
look at the shine
of her panting splendor.
Listen to the heavy hymn
of falling.

Pebble without eyes and ears.


Uncollected poem.



Both poems translated from the Polish by Piotr Florczyk

Read an introduction to these poems.

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Anna Świrszczyńska

was a Polish poet born in Warsaw in 1909. She attended Warsaw University where she studied medieval and baroque Polish literature. She began publishing poems in the 1930s. During the Nazi occupation of Poland, Świrszczyńska joined the Polish Resistance and was a military nurse during the Warsaw Uprising. This experience became then the subject of her book "Building the Barricade", published for the first time in 1974. Świrszczyńska died in Krakow of cancer in 1984. Her poems (published as Anna Swir) were translated by among others Czesław Miłosz.