Two Polish American Poems

March 13, 2023

A photograph of two windows in a two story apartment building. A face fills one and an oversized hand reaches out of the second. A human figure reaches up to the hand from below
Photo by Lava Lavanda / Unsplash

First Language

Not sure what to make of the title
            (titles can be misleading, like
                        Chinatown or Popiół i diament

or that blue–white–red trilogy
            by Krzysztof K.) we microwaved
                        a bottomless bucket of buttered popcorn

and ignoring the subtitles watched
            człowiek of sixty in a tattered bathrobe
                        spread faded photographs

of his rodzice out on a kitchen counter
            next to a half-eaten peach.
                        Oni beamed at firanka stirring

in the noon breeze—the city
            wanted in while the past
                        wanted out—but otherwise

said mało, even when he offered
            them pastries, a drink. At Koniec
                        he kissed his mother’s cheeks

and traced his palec like an oar
            along his father’s arm veins, ready
                        to answer their questions in Polish:

                        tak tak—nie nie.

Out of Place

Every house is a new home
in my mind. With unlocked doors

and carpeted stairs. A roof.
Every window a different view

of the same river, the boy breaking
elm sticks against his knee—

my sweaty hands, testing the glass,
confirm it. If I press too hard

the outside will shatter and I
will get lost among the pieces.

If I don’t, I’ll be stuck here forever.

Photo by Dena Florczyk

Piotr Florczyk is an award-winning poet, translator, and scholar who teaches in the Global Literary Studies program at the University of Washington, Seattle. Alongside multiple volumes of Polish poetry translations, he has published books of original poetry in English and in Polish. He lives with his family in Los Angeles.