Written in Polish by Jerzy Ficowski. Translated by Jennifer Grotz and Piotr Sommer.
where the green snake at the bottom of a dark cellar
under the mossy cover of rumbling and wood
rolled around itself and unrolled from itself
like the intricate peeling whittled by a sword
from the sour planetoid of a royal apple
I didn’t look under the lid didn’t see the snake
but I knew him loop after loop
as he drank the wet spots as he grazed the darkness
and I understood down to the bottom after years
that like him on meanderings had slithered to nothing
that it was simply so tortuously
the venomous initial in my alphabet of dreams
and that in autumn it would be invisibly gold
and that it must have had a Latin name
Jennifer Grotz‘s most recent book of poems is Window Left Open. She is director of the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conferences.
Piotr Sommer is the author of Continued (Wesleyan University Press) and Overdoing It (Hobart and William Smith Colleges Press). His collected poems, Po Ciemku Tez, (Also In The Dark) appeared in Poland in 2013.
Jerzy Ficowski (1924-2006) was a prolific poet, songwriter, and scholar. Recent translations of his poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, Poetry, The Nation, New York Review of Books, and elsewhere.
“The Initial” originally appeared in The Arkansas International, No. 5.