"The One Dear Body": Anna Kamienska and Death


Maria Madej, Julia Hartwig, and Anna Kamienska

At the cemetery. Some great comfort in this leveling of all. I lit candles not just on “my” grave, but on my friends’: Lec, Pietak, Mach . . .

Transformation is one of life’s gifts. When I look in the mirror now, I see Mother and Grandma united in my face. As though they’d returned. This is how we’re transformed. Through returns. They both come back to me in dreams now, Mother and Grandma. One always wants me to be better than I am. The other demands nothing, only loves, understands, brings tender medicine.

Grandma was our doctor in childhood. She brought us onions, garlic on wheat bread, bitter gentian, wormwood. She bought apples with her last pennies: the cheapest, withered. You ate them whole, stems and all.

* * *

I dreamed of my dead in silver masks.

* * *

Yesterday I heard, “He’s gone now. His body has decomposed. He’s gone. He’s not coming back.” I must still have illusions since those words still hurt. There are people who’d like to kill you in me. Don’t be frightened. You’re still alive, you won’t die. You can come back without fear.

* * *

The dead absorb us more than the living, because we always think there’s still time. Preoccupied with building their posthumous life inside us, we sometimes neglect the living.

* * *

When I hear violin music, I feel a painful clutch at my heart. I didn’t understand that pain. It’s my father playing the violin. I didn’t understand his death, I couldn’t accept it. But the blow hit hard, it left scars.

Is this consciousness therapeutic? I don’t think so. It reawakens all the later pains and sorrows anchored in that childish lament. It was the prototype of all the suffering foretold for my entire life. I walk through life with steps of death: father, brother, mother, grandma, husband. The whole tribe dropping along the roadside—into the void all around.

* * *

My way of the cross, my winter’s way. To his dead hands. I knew I would lose them and I drew them lying on the blanket that last day. Lovely, delicate hands. Why did I draw them? How did I know?

* * *

Zosia K.’s husband is dying. He never saw the world, but he’s enthralled by falling snow. He asked them to open the windows. Snow and death entered together.

* * *

All words about death are a lie, since all hopes are a lie. Words are futile hopes.

A clump of earth, a stone, a greedy strip of green: these don’t lie.

* * *

Prof. W. explained to me that there are weightless things. Gravitation for one. It is not material, yet it exists, we feel its pull. So the dead may likewise still exist. Through what they have left behind, through memory, their influence, and so on.

This is no comfort, though, when you howl, yearning for familiar hands, the chest, the one dear body.

* * *

My dreams like candles for the dead.

* * *

It seems that the dead always appear in our dreams just before we wake. In this way they remain somehow half real.

In my dreams his body is always phosphorescent blue.

* * *

The hospital bed. Bed for dying. Who lies ending there now? Who stands by the bedside? I again. Another I.

* * *

I want to be earth. Be earth. To hold you closely in my embrace. Always.

* * *

My dead always surround me. I walk in an invisible crowd.



Translated by Clare Cavanagh

Source: Poetry Foundation