Poem Hunter
Hunger Camp At Jaslo
(2 July 1923 – 1 February 2012 / Prowent)

Hunger Camp At Jaslo

Poem By Wislawa Szymborska

Write it. Write. In ordinary ink
on ordinary paper: they were given no food,
they all died of hunger. "All. How many?
It's a big meadow. How much grass
for each one?" Write: I don't know.
History counts its skeletons in round numbers.
A thousand and one remains a thousand,
as though the one had never existed:
an imaginary embryo, an empty cradle,
an ABC never read,
air that laughs, cries, grows,
emptiness running down steps toward the garden,
nobody's place in the line.

We stand in the meadow where it became flesh,
and the meadow is silent as a false witness.
Sunny. Green. Nearby, a forest
with wood for chewing and water under the bark-
every day a full ration of the view
until you go blind. Overhead, a bird-
the shadow of its life-giving wings
brushed their lips. Their jaws opened.
Teeth clacked against teeth.
At night, the sickle moon shone in the sky
and reaped wheat for their bread.
Hands came floating from blackened icons,
empty cups in their fingers.
On a spit of barbed wire,
a man was turning.
They sang with their mouths full of earth.
"A lovely song of how war strikes straight
at the heart." Write: how silent.

Translated by Grazyna Drabik and Austin Flint

Anonymous submission.

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Comments (10)

as if by someone who was there and ate from that wire
Such a profound poem by Wislawa Szymborska👍👍👍
In their fingers! ! Thanks for sharing this poem with us.
Millions who hunger and thirst after such cruel war, oh send us back into our place, and keep us there immured until we have perished of hunger..........such a poignant write expressed so wistfully......thanks for sharing
Very impressive poem, an honest poem, a warning: NEVER to be repeated! And of course I enclose here CONGRATULATIONS for this Modern POEM of The DAY, her family can always read these words Wislawa created.added with the wishes of course. Excellently translated. A TEN for Wislawa. Sincerely, Sylvia Frances Chan.