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Totems and Beads

by Tomasz Różycki

translated from the Polish by Mira Rosenthal

Everything I have is post-German: a post-German town
and post-German forests, post-German graves,
a post-German apartment, post-German stairs
and clock, dresser, plate, a post-German Volkswagen

and shirt and glass and trees and radio,
and right here on this rubbish heap I’ve built
my own life, on this refuse where I will reign,
digesting and decomposing. It fell to me to grow

a fatherland from it, and all I can do is convert
everything into oxygen, and nitrogen, and carbon,
and live in the soot-soaked air, in a kind of habitat.
Look: a gust of wind is lifting me up. I will

self-propagate, occupy the attics and basements
and the pantries, the suburbs, the wastelands.


Tomasz Różycki is a contemporary Polish poet. He is the author of five books of poetry, most recently Colonies, and the book-length poem Twelve Stations, winner of the Kościelski Prize. His work has been translated into numerous European languages, and The Forgotten Keys: Selected Poetry of Tomasz Różycki (translated by Mira Rosenthal) has just been published by Zephyr Press. He has received the Krzysztof Kamiel Baczyński Prize, the Joseph Brodski Prize from Zeszyty Literackie, and has been nominated twice for the Nike Prize, Poland’s most important literary award. He lives in his native city Opole with his wife and two children. (8/2007)

Mira Rosenthal is a poet and translator. Her work has appeared recently in Ploughshares, The American Poetry Review, Seneca Review, Notre Dame Review, The Beloit Poetry Journal, Harpur Palate, PRISM, and elsewhere . Her awards include a Fulbright Fellowship and residencies at the Vermont Studio Center and the Banff Centre. (8/2007)

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