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After the end of the world
after my death
I found myself in the middle of life
I created myself
constructed life
people animals landscapes

this is the table I was saying
this is the table
on the table are lying the bread the knife
the knife serves to cut the bread
people nourish themselves with bread

the man talked to the water
talked to the moon
to the flowers to the rain
he talked to the earth 
to the birds
to the sky

the sky was silent
the earth was silent
if he heard a voice
which flowed
from the earth from the water from the sky
it was the voice of another man


The realization of man's loneliness in the world is a reaction to the cataclysm of the War. Best known as French existentialism of the 1950s, it quite naturally appeared throughout the European aftermath. 

Deposition of the Burden

He came to you
and said
you are not responsible
either for the world or for the end of the world
the burden is taken from your shoulders
you are like birds and children

so they play

they forget
that modern poetry
is a struggle for breath


Nothing in Prospero's Cloak

Caliban a slave
taught human speech

with his snout in manure
his legs in paradise
sniffs at man

nothing arrives
nothing in a magic cloak of Prospero
nothing from the streets and lips
from pulpits and towers
nothing from loudspeakers
talks to nothing
about nothing

Translated by Czeslaw Milosz 

* * *

The poet grows weaker 
images lose strength

paints pale fade 
melt away 
they turn white at the river's mouth 
and wash into 
a black hole

on October 20, 1850 
Arthur Rimbaud came into the world

Season in Hell 
what a glorious age 
hell heaven

the metaphor still living 
bloomed within 

letters and words 
appeared in miraculous color 
A noir E blanc I rouge 
O bleu U vert

Poetry began from that moment 
to rave deliriously

between the two wars 
images turned white 
metaphors turned white

A blanc E blanc I blanc
O blanc U blanc

in the nuclear flash 
eyes lips turned white 
the world's shape turned white



This rustle

it's life pouring 
from the world 
filled with objects 
into death

it's through me 
a hole 
in reality 
that this world squeezes its way 
into the other world

I think this through 
the one whom 
I sought above 
waits below

in the den 
a transfiguration

sluggish mooing 
of trumpets made of 
kneaded waste paper 
and rolled

a rising from the dead 



The cage stayed shut so long 
that a bird was hatched inside

the bird stayed still so long 
that the cage 
corroded by its silence 
opened up

the silence lasted so long 
that behind the black bars 
laughter rang


Translated by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh


©2000 Jan Rybicki
This page was last updated on 02/12/01 .