When cathedral bells toll through the morning
and sunlight touches steeples with its glare,
and arrows on the town hall clock stop turning,
you will find him on the market square,
sweeping leaves in shadows of despair.
And in that instant you will cease your yearning.
Hunchbacked, with a chuckle he will share
the secrets of his heart, and give a warning
to city doves assembling at his feet,
to sparrows quarrelling on Neptune’s head.
He’ll lower his tobacco chin to meet
their eyes and whisper what Saint Francis said.
He’ll toss crumbs with his withered sailor’s hand.
And when he looks up, you will understand.


Leo Yankevich’s latest books are The Last Silesian (The Mandrake Press, 2005) Tikkun Olam & Other Poems (Second Expanded Edition), (Counter-Currents Publishing, 2012), Journey Late at Night: Poems & Translations (Counter-Currents Publishing, 2013) & The Hypocrisies of Heaven: Poems New & Old (Counter-Currents Publishing, 2016).  More of his work can be found at Leo Yankevich.com.

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10 Responses

  1. Joe Tessitore

    Sally Cook refers to you as “Prince Leo” and she’s right.
    Poetry like this, time after time, can only come from a princely heart.
    Bravo Leo❣️

  2. James Sale

    Another brilliant poem from ‘Prince Leo’: the last line is sublime in its simplicity and also in its suggestiveness. Wonderful stuff.

  3. Sally Cook

    Joe T., I believe I have spoken of “Count” Leo, as this is who he actually is. But beyond that, he is also a Prince of Poetry. Glad you caught that.

    Leo, yes, the birds and animals are much more knowing than some people, and honest in their beliefs and responses to life.
    I do prefer them to many people. Thank you for again hitting the mark.


    • Joe Tessitore

      “Countly heart” doesn’t work.
      This is one of those times when my memory lapses turn out for the better.

  4. Dave Whippman

    Very evocative; and I like the way that some of the lines vary in rhythm while still keeping the overall metrical pattern. Good work.

  5. David Watt

    You have captured the scene and the attendant emotions perfectly.

  6. Joseph S. Salemi

    Gdansk of course is the city of Danzig — at times German, at times Polish, at times independent. It is a city imprisoned in its tumultuous history.

    Might the title of this poem recall “The Birdman of Alcatraz”? In that film a man is imprisoned, and his birds become the symbol of a freedom that is longed for, but impossible.


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