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This poem is taken from PN Review 230, Volume 42 Number 6, July - August 2016.

Six Etudes

translated from the Polish by Jennifer Grotz & Piotr Sommer
Jerzy Ficowski
OVER THE COURSE of his life and career, Jerzy Ficowski (1924–2006) published more than a dozen volumes of poetry, including A Reading of Ashes, illustrated in the 1980 edition by Marc Chagall. In intellectual circles, he is best known as being the crucial authority of the expressionist Jewish fiction writer Bruno Schulz, who was killed by the Gestapo in 1942. Ficowski studied Schulz’s life, drawings and writing for more than a decade, publishing the first definitive literary biography on Schulz, Regions of the Great Heresy, in 1967. Ficowski, who as a young man took part in the Warsaw Uprising, travelled with the Polish gypsy population after the war and became an avid historian of the Polish Roma, documenting their culture in several monographs and translating their poetry, especially the work of a woman known as Papusza, into Polish. He made part of his living as a popular songwriter, all the while writing and publishing his own poems.


1. Old beggar at the church

At the gates of the church
deaf as the stump
of a felled tree
is a polychromed beggar
with an empty hand
He used to wear gold brocade
but it grayed
he had archangel wings
that turned into a hunchback
He scrapes together coppers
for the bell
So that the Lord God
will listen


2. Cemetery squirrels

Squirrels
like cemeteries
...


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