“Marseillaise” by Bruno Jasieński, translated by Mila Jaroniec

Marsylianka

nie będę więcej sławił żadnej z dam
ani jej imię w śpiewnych strofach pieścił
odkąd ujrzałem cię raz pierwszy tam
w tym dziwnym nigdy nie widzianym mieście

pamiętam wieczór jak wytarty gwasz
i w bramach domów przykucnięty przeraz
gdym nagle w tłumie ujrzał twoją twarz
i zrozumiałem że to właśnie teraz

ulica drgała wijąc się jak wąż
migotał witryn kolorowy miszmasz
i wiatr dął słodszy niżli ust twych miąższ
na których pręgą wyciśnięty krzyż masz

i nagle tłumu obolały guz
rozorał obłęd jak płomiennym zębem
i ktoś olbrzymi ręce w górę wzniósł
i w blachę słońca długo bił jak w bęben

a potem nagi poplamiony bruk
i bladych ludzi pierzchające garstki – –
uniosłem w oczach tylko chust twych róg
i twój niebieski kołnierz marynarski

nie wiem czy znajdę gdzie o tobie wieść
czy mi się tylko cała wśnisz w legendę –
wiem że cię zawsze muszę w sobie nieść
i w każdej twarzy już cię szukać będę

śni mi się gorzki morskiej wody smak
gdzie przepływ w portach liże barki barek
i mam pod czaszką wieczny trzepot flag
i serce w piersi skacze jak zegarek

wiem to się stanie w jeden duszny zmierzch
będę szedł tłumem i jak lampa migał
aż raz przeleje się mój krzyk przez wierzch
i miastem wstrząśnie jak olbrzymi dźwigar

z rozpędu trzaśnie w moją głowę mur
i nagle przejdzie mój ochrypły bas w alt
ujrzę pod sobą biały chodnik chmur
a pod głowami nieba twardy asfalt

wtedy o wtedy – – czuję szat twych wiew
i zapach rąk twych poznam każdą tkanką
klękniesz i z twarzy mi obetrzesz krew –
kochanko moja smukła marsylianko!


Marseillaise

I will no longer praise another lady
nor caress her name in any form of verse
not since I saw you there the first time
in that strange and unseen city’s universe

I remember the night was faded like gouache
and in the gates of houses crouching fear
when suddenly in the crowd I caught your face
and then I understood the time is here

the jittering street was winding like a snake
the colored flecks of windows flicked like breeze
the flesh of wind was sweeter than your lips
on which I saw a cross-shaped welt was squeezed

and suddenly the swollen aching bruise of crowd
that like an inflamed tooth tilled through the hum
and someone raised a pair of giant hands
and beat into the sun sheet metal drum

and then stained naked cobblestones
and handfuls of pale scuttling crowds –
I only saw the corners of your scarf
your sailor’s collar that was blue like clouds

I don’t know if I’ll hear of you again
or if you’ll just fade into a dream space
but I know I’ll carry you inside me always
and search for you in every passing face

I dream of ocean water’s bitter taste
where the tide licks barges’ barks at ports
a constant flutter of flags beneath my skull
the heart inside my chest jumps and contorts

and I know it’ll happen during one thick dusk
walking through the crowd I’ll flicker like a light
and then my scream will spill over the edge
and shake the city walls with all its might

I’ll run and smash the wall against my head
and then my raspy bass will change to alto
underneath there’ll be a sidewalk of white clouds
beneath the tips of the sky there’ll be hard asphalt

and then, just then – I’ll feel the brush of robes
I know your hands’ scent through any texture’s raise
you’ll kneel down and wipe the blood from my face –
my darling slender Marseillaise!


Profile: Bruno Jasieński

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“They Ran Him Over” by Bruno Jasieński, translated by Mila Jaroniec

Prezejechali

— Kinematograf —
Piegowata służąca w białej bluzce w groszki.
Ktoś wysmukły, z rajerem.
— Przyjedziesz?… — „Nie mogę…”
Hooop!!
Samochody. Platformy. Dorożki.
Kinematograf szprych
Z kółłomotem gruchotał po wyschłym asfalcie.
— Poczekaj… — „Nie, nie, nie proś, bo mogłabym
ulec…”

Dzyn! Dzyn!!
Tramwaj czerwony wytoczył się z alej.
Jeden. Dwa.
Minęły się w przelocie, dystansując drogę.
Złowieszczy śpiew szlifowanych szyn…
Mały człowiek w burym palcie…
Trrrrrach!!!
Stoppp!!
Hamulec!
Aaaaaaaaaa!!
Przejechali! Przejechali!!


They Ran Him Over

– Nickelodeon –
A freckled maid in a white polka-dot shirt.
Someone slender, with a vengeance.
– Will you come?… – “I can’t…”
Hop!
Cars. Platforms. Cabs.
A rolling filmstrip
Grumbling across the stretch of dried asphalt.
– Wait… – “No, no, don’t ask, I could give in…”

Ding! Ding!!
A red tram pulls out of the alley.
One. Two.
They pass each other at a distance.
The ominous song of polished rails…
A small man in a drab coat…
Crrrrrash!!!
Stopppp!!
Brakes!
Ahhhhhhhhh!!
They ran him over! They ran him over!!


Profile: Bruno Jasieński

“The Walk” by Bruno Jasieński, translated by Mila Jaroniec

Spacer

Śpiew propellera do słów Heredii,
Kiedyś zgubionych w smaltowej mgle…
Grałem jej jedną z moich komedii
W ekstrapowietrznym tylko-en-deux.

Słońce do głowy biło ekstazą.
Słowa spływały w jeden refrain.
Obserwowała mnie bezwyrazo
Spod tangoszalu przez face-á-main.

Nie wiem, czy brała, com mówił, serio.
(Dwie lekkie linie w kącikach warg…)
Pod nami warczał rytmiczny Bleriot
I wiatr całował błękitny kark.


The Walk

The propeller’s hymn to Heredia’s words,
To words once lost in inky fog…
I played one of my comedies for her
Us two suspended in airy smog.

The sun pulsed through my head fervently.
The words flowed down into one refrain.
She watched me, expressionless; intently
Through the wild tango of her face-á-main.

I don’t know if she took what I said serious.
(In the corners of her lips two lines were wrote…)
Beneath us growled the rhythmic Bleriot
And the wind kissed her sky-blue throat.


Profile: Bruno Jasieński

“Narcotics Anonymous” by Mila Jaroniec

(All names have been changed. The whole story has been changed.)

The shiny-black-haired girl to my left adjusted the tracking device around her ankle, scratching absently at her healing tattoo. A few pieces of molted gray skin flaked off and drifted down softly onto the ugly carpet. I winced. The lady to my right, small and blonde and steadily crunching her way through a bag of M&M’s, looked over at me and smiled.

“You’re new, aren’t you? Hi. I’m Janie.”

“Hi. Liz.” I shook hands with her.

“I’m not that good, but I’m here.” She rolled her eyes and tossed some more M’s in her mouth.

“Okay, let’s get started with the serenity prayer,” said Casey, the only person I knew, from the front of the room. Everyone adjusted and cleared their throats. Casey winked in my direction.

The serenity prayer: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom always to know the difference. Just like I’d seen stamped on countless keychains and embroidered on well-meaning throw pillows.

“Okay. Let’s go around and introduce ourselves, I’ll go first. I’m Casey, and I’m an addict.”

“Hi, Casey.”

“Hi I’m Kate, and I’m an addict.” (Smiled shyly – first time?)

“Clarence, addicted.” (Not his first time.)

“I’m Janie, I’m an addict.” (More M&M’s.)

“I’m Liz, and I’m an addict.” (Was this a lie?)

And so on.

Someone read the why-we’re-here. Then someone recited the goals sheet. Then someone read something else. I sat there and sipped my cold coffee, wondering what this formulaic repetition could possibly give anyone besides a headache. This was like getting up for mustard after you’ve already eaten the hot dog. What was I doing here actually?

Did Casey ask me to come with her because she needed moral support, or because she thought I needed it? How long do you have to be clean before you officially don’t have a drug problem? Months? Years? Or is it like herpes, you just have it no matter what?

We read Step 4. I had no idea what Steps 1-3 were, but Step 4 was an inventory: you were supposed to be honest with yourself about every horrible thing drugs made you do and every horrible thing drugs made you feel. Everyone read awkwardly and stumbled on words. I wished for a beer, feeling claustrophobic. Then I remembered where I was and felt the impulse to sob.

After awhile, Janie spoke. Her words drifted, muffled, around the bright red sucker in her mouth which had materialized from somewhere at some point. She took it out and placed it wetly on the empty bag of M&M’s.

“…And it’s like…I want to get better. But at the same time it’s like ‘God, here we go again.’” A single black tear dripped off her inky eyelash. “I can’t believe I’m doing this again.”

“Sometimes I wish I could be normal, you know?” She peeled the sucker off the bag with a sticky rip and stuck it back in her mouth. “But you know what? All those ‘normal’ people out there are more fucked up than we are, and they don’t have a 12-step program to fix it.”

Janie cracked the sucker with her back teeth as if to punctuate and everyone laughed, then stopped. I understood the silence with a plummeting nausea and slowly cleared my throat.

“I guess…you know…since it’s my first time here, I haven’t done any of the other steps. And to be honest, for the first 35 minutes I still didn’t think I needed to be here.” Everyone laughed again and I felt the heat rise in my cheeks.

“But this entire list was like…a checklist. Of what I should have thought about, then. It’s…I don’t know. Thanks. Thank you.” I choked on the last part through a sip of coffee. Everyone nodded reassuringly.

Maybe it was like taking medicine for a cold that went away two weeks ago, or maybe you were still sick. But at least you acknowledged it, right? You needed to do that, right? You had to see it. That’s how you got better.

“Thirty days sober?”

One guy raised his hand to receive his keychain. Applause.

“2 months? 6 months?” No one, none.

“18 months?” Nothing.

“And how about today, the most important day of all?”

Everyone.

We went outside to smoke our cigarettes feeling exhausted and considerably lighter.


Profile: Mila Jaroniec