Whenever I Meet
translated from the Polish by John and Bogdana Carpenter
Cherubim and Seraphim, these I can understand. But where do these fat crows in the garden come from, the branch bending under their weight?
I wonder at each sparrow jumping as if on a spring, I wonder at each wandering cat.
O secret, intermediate world, so you continue to exist?
Whenever I meet eye to eye with a dog standing on legs spread wide and staring at me expectantly and persistently, I can’t resist the thought that it is for my abuses of speech, for my boasting and false tone, that he was punished by speechlessness.
Julia Hartwig occupies a prominent place in the Polish literary landscape. She has been awarded numerous prizes in Poland, France, and the United States, including the Jurzykowski Prize and the Thornton Wilder Prize from the Translation Center at Columbia University, and the Austrian Georg Trakl Prize for poetry. Hartwig has translated many American poets into Polish. She has also translated poetry by Apollinaire, Rimbaud, Max Jacob, Cendrars, Supervielle, and Henri Michaux, and published studies of Apollinaire and Gerard de Nerval.
John Carpenter is a poet and critic. Bogdana Carpenter is a professor at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, currently chair of the Slavic Department. They have translated many volumes of the writer Zbigniew Herbert, among other works; they are preparing a collection of Julia Hartwig’s poetry with the working title In Praise of the Unfinished. (10/2006)