Tadeusz Borowski

(1922-1951)

Names Of The River


It's strange, like a dream: in the deep shadows of evening
to tumble down into narrow lanes, and rest my eyes
on the blind walls of darkness and search for black, leafless branches
which the wind has pressed against the violet sky
like characters in a strange alphabet - now it's blowing
these signs into strands of smoke.
The light from distant windows, reflections of stars and gleaming eyes
slide slowly over the bark, shadows emerge from below,
and the reflection runs along the bars and disappears
in the depths of the lane -
a trembling runs like a wave along the soft shades of sky
torn at the bottom by the darkness of stone houses and poles
flat as stage sets, sharp and unreal . . .

It's strange, like a dream, but somehow alive and painful
to walk in evening lanes, looking at lights and shadows
as at a traveling show, to be the wind and the branch
pressed against the sky, to pass in shapes, and flow
as on a river's tide, and each shape is a wave
rising alone and alone silently falling. . .

And have only one body, like the current of a strange river
rising in waves like a shadow, like a branch, like the wind,
passing, lonely and mute, a brief flash
on the stage set of events ... sleep and weariness come,
a cold wind blows, the body trembles, lips grow pale
and shapes are jumbled in dreams, everything is confused
like the unfamiliar lines the wind
slowly writes on the sky with the bare branches of trees.

It's strange: to walk through a lane and not recognize familiar
shapes and the ordinary names of houses, street lamps, stones,
and see faces of friends as through a sheet of water,
clouded and indistinct. Mouths open in a stifled shout
sink somewhere, flow down with the swaying wave
and eyes gaze at me, expectant,
swirl and blur in the spray of the shattered glass surface,
burning with phosphorescent fire. The sky creases in waves,
the hiss of electricity is like the quivering chord of a broken string. . .
and again the branches of trees, and the reflection along iron bars
and the writing falls in shadows, the names of the passing river.

It's strange, like a dream, but somehow alive, painful:
to walk in evening lanes and not recognize familiar
shapes and ordinary names, and forget the faces of friends
to be only light and shadow, to have a lonely, mute body,
and to be the wave of a strange river, passing on and on.

Will you come back to me? As a wave,
as the darkness which weaves
around my feet and creeps
into my heart. A heavy
swollen sky - that's what you are:
as real as my shadow, my body,
elusive and deep as my dazed reflection
in a window pane blackened by night.
Something stirs in me as though
I had simply left myself behind,
just as I would get up from a table or a bed.
But I'm wrapped in myself as in sleep.
I know I dream myself,
but dreaming, remember nothing.

Submitted: Wednesday, September 22, 2010

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