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by Stanislaw Baranczak

translated from the Polish by Clare Cavanagh

The spiderweb, symmetrical

                 is still
a sail stretched from leaf to leaf,
sifting sunrise (let’s wax
a thatched roof
straining stars some August night (there’s
no better),
a wintry
pattern (anaesthetic) on the glass;

the splayed hand that slapped your face;
the wheel they broke you on; the rifle
target bearing your hunched shape;
ripples on the water where you drowned;
your solar plexus radiating
pain; the sight on a fighter plane
nosediving the road where you shield
your head with other refugees; a windowpane
meshed with cracks where your eyes had been;

the spiderweb, concentric rings; pain
grows this way; centrifugal rays;
a dead star decays this way; symmetrical death;
harmonious disgrace;
tidy degradation;

you only feel it brush your face.


Poet, translator, and critic Stanislaw Baranczak is the Alfred Jurzykowski Professor of Polish Literature, Emeritus, at Harvard University. He has translated, among others, Wislawa Szymborska (with Clare Cavanagh) and Jan Kochanowski (with Seamus Heaney) into English and has published over forty volumes of English poetry in Polish translation. (2000)

Clare Cavanagh is Associate Professor of Slavic Languages at Northwestern University. She has written extensively on Russian, Polish, and English poetry and has translated the poetry of Wislawa Szymborska (with Stanislaw Baranczak) and Adam Zagajewski. (2000)

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