Translated from Polish by Piotr Florczyk
She was dying in the basement,
on sacks of coal,
crying for water,
crying for her son,
no one was there.
The son forgot about his mother,
the son was cleaning his rifle.
He was counting bullets
ahead of the battle.
Born in 1909 in Warsaw, Poland, Anna Swir (Świrszczyńska) is widely considered one of Poland’s most distinguished poets. Profoundly marked by World War II, especially the Warsaw Uprising of 1944, during which she volunteered as a nurse, Swir explores in her poems the joys and horrors of human nature and the female body. She died in Kraków in 1984.
Piotr Florczyk is a poet, essayist, and translator of six volumes of Polish poetry, including The World Shared: Poems by Dariusz Sośnicki (co-translated with Boris Dralyuk) and The Day He’s Gone: Poems 1990–2013 by Paweł Marcinkiewicz. He lives in Santa Monica.
In the print edition of this poem, which ran in The Glutton’s Kitchen, this poem was miscorrectly identified. This is the correct version. A revised version of all five poems will appear in the next issue of TLR.