4 Poems by Polish Writer Tadeusz Slawek in Translation


The city of trust is not composed of God’s paths,
where worshippers tread,
nor of paths we take to follow
our friends, colleagues, the dead.

The paths of the city of trust are always singular,
forking only into stretched and open arms.

In the apartments of the city of trust nobody asks the question “why,”
because everybody knows that trust is true only
if it shows up not to stay but to go away.
That’s why the word “truth,” used by many nations as
a crappy horse-boy, ineptly removing horseshit
was replaced by a touch of two hands,
which serves only two people
allowing them to see the effects of their deeds.

In the space between two hands, open
to the falling rain,
the city of trust was built.

In the city of trust, the word “truth” has been sentenced to long
months and years of non-existence,
but take a sniff and, in your nostrils, you’ll smell the sharp scent of the truth,
whose trunks and logs have been burned, to leave nothing but the fragrance
cruising the streets in gold clouds of smoke.

Just as high in the sky
the winter moon,
flutters its only wing.

The fringed cloud of reason and words cannot contain the truth,
which is a fish in the thin streams of hands.
In the city of trust, the great trunks of truth have been burned,
to line the earth with fertile ash;
the knotted branches of truth have been burned,
to make all categories ephemeral;
the tiny sprouts of truth have been burned, so that nobody
could weave a wreath of wisdom;
the tree of truth has been burned, because only few
were protected by its shadow,
because it has been learned that the truth belongs neither to me,
nor to you, but that it belongs to a place b e y o n d us,
in an empty space, in the sharp scent,
as if, standing on the shore, we are looking at the white, salty sea,
so that, when the time will have come to die,
rather than cease to breathe, we can breathe wider.

It’s no good when the truth is within you,
and it’s bad when the truth is in me;
the truth belongs i n–b e t w e e n us,
for its bliss lies in disappearing.
How beautifully wood smells after the rain.
Is it the smell of the wood,
or the rain?

Tadeusz Sławek

Sławek is a Professor of Comparative Literature at the University of Silesia, and between 1996 and 2002 he served as the President of this university. Sławek’s most important publications include: The Typewriter. On Jacques Derrida’s Theory of Literature (with Tadeusz Rachwał) (1992); Calling of Jonah. Problems of Literary Voice (with Donald Wesling) (1995); Man, World, Friendship in the Works of William Blake (2001); Revelations of Gloucester (2003); Grasping. H.D. Thoreau and the Community of the World (2009); Reversing the World. Sentences from Shakespeare (2012); Departing (2015); Never without the Rest. On the Urgency of Incompleteness (2018).