4 Poems by Polish Writer Tadeusz Slawek in Translation


1. House of the Harlots

Purple upholstered walls rise
above the body of Omnia,
where I took the place of dozens of sailors,
to tell her in the morning
“I am far away.”
I am Omnia.
The wing of high flights.
On me, I patiently carry
Each drains a hole in me
and after winter sleep
I am the food for the little creatures.

2. House of the Politician

With a raised collar of the doorframe,
with the hat of the dusk pulled over his eyes,
door handle clamped on the butt of the gun,
I guard a certain little liar.
I throw my lot in with his,
“I am far away.”
I have no children.
I am among the one hundred million voters.
I endlessly hunt myself.

3. House of God

I am the history of a certain rebellion.
Pine and cedar were used to make the distant goal closer
So that one could climb up to heaven

But the captain hanging from the mast
reads the map in vain—
only bloody pulp in front of the eyes.
No winds move the sails of words.
I remain faithful to him.
I am the number. They say
a certain amount of failure,
alchemically melted
into triumph.
Put your hands together.
Think, how far from the tip of the fingers
to the toes.

4. House by the Hour

On the first floor, the sun rises later,
let us respect the absence of light.
A strange smell in the mattress,
it hasn’t been aired here since last summer.
When they open the doors,
there is only a bed left, a white rhinoceros.
Do not touch its skin
because its whiteness will wrinkle nervously.
Come in.
Do not exceed the indicated time.
Turn off the light when leaving.

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).