Piotr Gwiazda

Piotr Gwiazda


Lacking the power
(or the right instrument)

to make trees shake,
rocks move, critics swoon,

you take the paths
that lead nowhere.

(The best paths follow
a slight incline.)

Cursed with the burden
to rename all things

in America,
to translate language—

in short,
to save it from extinction—

a rube, a Parsifal,
you ask dumb questions.


You ask the wall What is
freedom? It answers

The ocean, with Alzheimer’s disease,

only keeps you waiting.
The clock: 12:01 P.M.

God, on the telephone:
Your call is important to us.

You ask philosophers
inside their prison—

their replies are evasive:
What is the mind?

A place that is no place.
What is the body?

A chunk of matter
constantly put on the spot.

You ask schoolchildren
during recess

what exactly they mean by
basketball, apple, mother.

Their answers come out garbled,
too much like language.

Everywhere you turn
only readymade language . . .

People have organs
and messages inside them.

What is it then
that foils communication?


Here on this planet,
with no future,

where the wilderness has the color
of worn-out dollar bills,

rivers are covered
with oil and graffiti,

and civilizations of dragonflies
evolve in the parking lot

behind a shopping plaza,
your mission

comes to a standstill:
the horizon.



Piotr Gwiazda is a Polish-born poet, translator, and scholar. He is the author of two books of poetry, Messages (Pond Road Press, 2012) and Gagarin Street: Poems (Washington Writers’ Publishing House, 2005). He has also published a critical study, James Merrill and W.H. Auden: Homosexuality and Poetic Influence (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007).

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