by Daniel Bourne
(Biskupia GÃ³rka, GdaÅ„sk, September 11, 2013)
Only the ghost words of milk and soap, rubbed out signs of childhood,
the complicated bannisters
varnished once by the Poles, then the fingers of the Germans. Later
when the Russians came, these bannisters bent
but did not splinter, their hand-carved grains
like scrolls of the dead voices of the dead apartments.
On the parade ground, further up the steep Bishop’s Hill,
the Hitler Jugend once screeched in their short trousers, the mother
land purring in their beds. How can we talk about pornography today
as if it were a recent curse? As if the world
is suddenly more evil than it was?
Later, it starts to rain. From my third floor window on DÅ‚uga Street
I watch the mix of brick and wood
on the cathedral tower of GdaÅ„sk.
Only pigeons fly into its sides. Tomorrow,
will be the latest news about Syria,
the bannisters with their hands,
scooting over for the bomb
that lies next to them in bed.
Daniel Bourne’s books of poetry include The Household Gods and Where No One Spoke the Language. His poems have appeared in Field, Ploughshares, American Poetry Review, Guernica, Salmagundi, Shenandoah, Prairie Schooner, Plume, Weber: The Contemporary West, and others. He teaches in English and Environmental Studies at The College of Wooster, where he is the editor of Artful Dodge. Since 1980 he has also lived in Poland, including 1985-87 on a Fulbright for the translation of younger Polish poets and, most recently, in 2018 and 2019.