Leslaw Nowara – Three Poems

Leslaw Nowara was born in Gliwice (Poland) in 1963. He is a lawyer by education, a graduate of the Silesian University in Katowice.
He is a poet, aphorist, columnist and literary reviewer who made his debut in the literary press in 1983.
He has published nine volumes of poetry: Green LoveHouse of Green WindowsThe Third EyeRussian RouletteCocoonQuietdarkDot and LineThe Dark Side of Light (selected poems), and The Whale’s Bone; and four volumes of literary miniatures (aphorisms and epigrams): The World According to LudekThe Big Little LudekSentences with a Dot, and Ludek the Fatalist.
A member of the Polish Writers’ Association, he lives in Gliwice (Poland).


– You survived your own death – said the doctor,
who stitched up the patches of my ulcer-ridden stomach.

Two years have passed since then
and I don’t feel good about it.

For more than half a century, I have become intimate with death,
living under the same roof with her,
day and night,
in sickness and in health,
thinking of her as someone close to me,
who will not leave me
and would remain with me to the very end.

Death has left me.
The body has deserted.

In an old cupboard in the kitchen
my mother left me an old-fashioned hourglass,
which she used to measure time,
when putting a cake in the oven,
sometimes when boiling eggs.

All the sand in this hourglass has run out long ago
and time has stopped.

Since then
no cake has been baked
or even any eggs cooked.

Within two years since my death
every day is the same day,
that has no name or date,
a day that could not be squeezed
between any yesterday and tomorrow,
a day that has mistaken midnight for noon
and stuck between the hours,
like a shadow on a sundial,
when darkness has fallen for good,
and the dawn yet is not coming.

Bridge over the Klodnica River

Tarry this river, thick with kelpies, swarming with predatory branches
and shoes with open mouths, hunting terns.
We spit into this river, completely with none of sense, as the saliva drowned
in white foam. None of us were launching bark boats here,
but only chestnut shells, which through the locks in Labedy,
through Koźle and Wrocław, flowed down the Oder River to Szczecin itself.
Every journey that started here was futile anyway,
because it always ended with the mother’s screams, the reheating of dinner
and a ban on watching an evening movie on TV.

To this day I still feel the scent of this river and recognize right away
In cemeteries, in public restrooms,
in garbage dumps and junkyards.
It’s the same scent that nests in armpits,
nests in worn socks and shoes
and filters through the skin into the blood, down to the bones.

Sometimes even now I still come to the Klodnica River and stop on that bridge.
Then I always bring old newspapers, sometimes official letters, sometimes private letters.
I drop them into the water and watch them spin in the eddies,
I throw small stones to them, feeding them like swans.


It was cold and drizzly on the ferry from Punta Sabbioni.
On the upper deck the wind pressed under my jacket like a cold kitten.
Venice was visible.
Houses, palaces and churches as if made of Lego blocks.
St. Mark’s bell tower like a brown crayon set on a stile.
Gondolas laced to the pier, like bark boats rubbing against the banks of a stream.
Like bark boats on which, as a child, beetles and ants were carried away
and set out on long journeys.
The planks of the deck on the ferry creaked under my feet today like dry branches and leaves,
on which we walked down to the bank of the stream.
Your hand was the only blade I could grasp today.
But I was too close.
Every time you looked at me you pushed me away for a few steps.
We were supposed to be like in the movie.
But I didn’t know it would be silent and black and white.
So all the houses and palaces in Venice will be ashen and gray today.
Before we arrive at the port
Tintoretto and Veronese with their brushes will chase all the colors from them
and transfer them back to their palettes.
In St. Mark’s Square, you’ll be sure to gaze at the display cases,
at the rings and diamond earrings,
and I’ll be thinking about the butter cubes in the refrigerator,
whether it will surely go rancid before we get home.
It’s probably a good thing I froze a few rolls and half a loaf of bread,
so that we wouldn’t be left completely without bread upon our return.
In the narrow streets between San Marco and Rialto, I look at the men’s shirts,
hung on ropes stretched between the houses.
These shirts haven’t even touched a man’s body for years now,
but every week they are washed and hung up,
to shut the mouths of the neighbors.
I don’t know why, but I was now reminded of our walk in the woods.
It was so quiet at the time,
That our silence carried throughout the forest like an echo.
In these narrow streets between San Marco and Rialto
are bustling.
But I can still hear that silence of ours there
And I still listen for the echo.



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