Carol

They come slowly—loiter, you might say,
Some with olive oil splashed on their bums,
Others with enormous crooked thumbs,
All full of holes like sculptures on display.
Broads… up to their elbows in sweet cake;
Widows…clad in blizzards of mock snow;
Ladies… so thin that their skeletons glow;
Tarts…with three nights of fasting in their wake.
Animals: a goat, two rooks, a camel,
(A camel from the ZOO with a pierced lip),
A spitz that wears a ribbon and a slip,
A raven perched on some strange nameless mammal.
The three kings last: one with a face of gauze,
The second with a jaw made out of plaster,
The third as beautiful as alabaster,
Though his crown’s sharper than the teeth of saws.
They stand and watch. The mother, mid trees, swings,
Sprawled out, her feet rocking back and forth.
Sometimes a drop of silence hits the floor,
Sometimes a mouse squeaks, or a stone sings.
How long can the foetus keep flesh mired?
How long can the star fall in our marrows?
Sometimes a mouse squeaks, or boulder carols,
And this is all, so far, that has transpired…

—translated by Leo Yankevich after the Polish of Stanisław Grochowiak (1934-1976)

Original Polish

Kolęda

Schodzą powoli — tak złażą się, rzekłbyś —
Jedni oliwą po białka schlapani,
Inni z wielkimi krzywymi kciukami,
Wszyscy dziurawi jak gruzy lub rzeźby.

Baby… Te w ciasto spowite po łokcie;
Wdowy… Te w pudrze jak w śnieżnej zamieci;
Panny… Tak chude, że świeci szkielecik;
Płatne panienki — po trzynocnym poście.

Ze zwierząt koza, dwa gawrony, wielbłąd —
(Wielbłąd ze ZOO, ma przekłutą wargę),
Szpic ustrojony w spłowiałą kokardę,
Kruk — jak w przepaskę — owinięty w bielmo.

Króle na końcu. Król w gazowym pysku,
Drugi ma gipsem zlutowane szczęki,
Trzeci jest jasny, jest nieomal piękny
W ostrej koronie z żelaznych odprysków.

I stoją. Patrzą. Matka między drzewa
Rozpięta — zwisa. Stopy się kołyszą,
Czasami kropla wstrząśnie martwą ciszą,
Czasem mysz ćwierknie lub kamień zaśpiewa.

A płód — Jak długo może drążyć ciało?
Jak długo gwiazda spada w naszych trzewiach?
Czasem mysz ćwierknie, czasem głaz zaśpiewa,
A to jest wszystko, co dotąd się stało…

 

 

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). Leo Yankevich passed away in December 2018. The above translation was submitted by Sally Cook and originally published in Trinacria.


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2 Responses

  1. Sally Cook

    Thank you so much, Evan, for posting this translation at this time. The moment before the birth of Jesus is full of tensions, as the world is changing. Blessed Christmas !

    Thank you so much for posting this, Evan. The moment just before the birth of Jesus must have been full of tensions.

    Yhe world was changing. Blessed first Christmas!

    Reply

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