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Non omnis moriar

by Zuzanna Ginczanka

translated from the Polish by Nancy Kassell and Anita Safran


Non omnis moriar. My grand estate—
Tablecloth meadows, invincible wardrobe castles,
Acres of bedsheets, finely woven linens,
And dresses, colorful dresses—will survive me.
I leave no heirs.
So let your hands rummage through Jewish things,
You, Chomin’s wife from Lvov, you mother of a volksdeutscher.
May these things be useful to you and yours,
For, dear ones, I leave no name, no song.
I am thinking of you, as you, when the Schupo came,
Thought of me, in fact reminded them about me.
So let my friends break out holiday goblets,
Celebrate my wake and their wealth:
Kilims and tapestries, bowls, candlesticks.
Let them drink all night and at daybreak
Begin their search for gemstones and gold
In sofas, mattresses, blankets and rugs.
Oh how the work will burn in their hands!
Clumps of horsehair, bunches of sea hay,
Clouds of fresh down from pillows and quilts,
Glued on by my blood, will turn their arms into wings,
Transfigure the birds of prey into angels.

 


(Non omnis moriar, “Not all of me will die,” are the opening words of Horace, Ode 3.30.)

 

Polish poet Zuzanna Ginczanka was born in Lvov in 1917. She published her first poems while still in school. At age eighteen she moved to Warsaw, where she continued to publish and was active in literary circles. Non omnis moriar may have been written in 1942 after she was denounced and arrested, then released. In 1944, while living in Crakow, she was again denounced, arrested, and executed. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first English translation of this poem.

Nancy Kassell has published poems in Kalliope, Spoon River Poetry Review, Southern Poetry Review, Feminist Review, and Salamander, as well as in several anthologies, including Verse and Universe. She is also the author of a cultural study, The Pythia on Ellis Island: Rethinking the Greco-Roman Legacy in America.

Anita Safran
was born in Poland and was an editor at Harvard University Press for over twenty years. (2/2006)


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