The Taste of Metal

Translated from Polish by Ewa Hryniewicz-Yarbrough

Endless trouble, this wind
Here on the river black at this time of year
When shallow ruts glazed with ice crackle.
Digging into memory as if digging into the recesses of a walnut
He looked for love. Love for whom or love for what.
The dog collar of the sun, a beer bottle
And a scrap of a newspaper from the past season.
By the boatman’s shed locked with a hasp
A dog growled. For quite a while now under his tongue
He had felt the festive acrid taste of metal.
And his stomach kept rising in his throat
But there was no throat. Nor anything else.


Janusz Szuber was born in 1947 and has published eighteen collections of poetry in Poland. His work has been translated into many other languages, and he has received a number of awards, including the City of Sanok Literary Award, the Kazimiera Illako -wiczówna Award for Best Poetic Debut, the top award from the Polish Foundation of Culture (for his book About a Boy Stirring Jam), and the Wladyslaw and Nelly Turzañski Cultural Award (Toronto). Szuber lives in the old city of Sanok, near the Franciscan church where his ancestors are buried.

Ewa Hryniewicz-Yarbrough is a translator of poetry and an essayist. Her most recent book of translation, of the Polish poet Janusz Szuber, is They Carry a Promise. Her essays have appeared in Threepenny Review, TriQuarterly, and theSan Francisco Chronicle.

“The Taste of Metal” was originally published in the Winter 2004 issue of TLR.