Ośrodek „Brama Grodzka - Teatr NN” w Lublinie jest samorządową instytucją kultury działającą na rzecz ochrony dziedzictwa kulturowego i edukacji. Jej działania nawiązują do symbolicznego i historycznego znaczenia siedziby Ośrodka - Bramy Grodzkiej, dawniej będącej przejściem pomiędzy miastem chrześcijańskim i żydowskim, jak również do położenia Lublina w miejscu spotkania kultur, tradycji i religii.

Częścią Ośrodka są Dom Słów oraz Lubelska Trasa Podziemna.

Ośrodek „Brama Grodzka - Teatr NN” w Lublinie jest samorządową instytucją kultury działającą na rzecz ochrony dziedzictwa kulturowego i edukacji. Jej działania nawiązują do symbolicznego i historycznego znaczenia siedziby Ośrodka - Bramy Grodzkiej, dawniej będącej przejściem pomiędzy miastem chrześcijańskim i żydowskim, jak również do położenia Lublina w miejscu spotkania kultur, tradycji i religii.

Częścią Ośrodka są Dom Słów oraz Lubelska Trasa Podziemna.

Józef Czechowicz “Poem on the City of Lublin” (1934)

Translated by Kevin Grabowski-Christianson and Halina Ablamowicz

Copyright © 2009 by Kevin Grabowski-Christianson

 

On one tower a small tin rooster whirred –

on the other – a clock softly hummed.

A wall of clouds and waves fractured

into little golden windows:

stars, streetlamps.

 

Lublin sat down shyly by a meadow.

Alone was the town –

and there was stillness. 

 

All round

the ring of hillsides

stretch the steaming tracts of rich black earth.

 

Vapors lie above blackish orchards.

From over the meadows come vapors.

The earth has closed her eyes

with eyelids of fog.

 

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No one hears the footsteps in the fog that bring the wanderer nearer to his home town.  Dirt paths expand, then swell into roads, and these roads spill out again far and wide among the undulating fields.  The wind rolls along the road.  Breaking free it whispers in the spikes of grain.  Midnight is near, yet someone is drawing water from a well.  The creaking of an old-fashioned well-sweep can be heard.  It’s still rustic here.  Still rustic. 

The moon races amongst the clouds.  The fog grows thin.

Wanderer: here now are the winding streets of the old suburb Wieniawa.  Long ago when vineyards once adorned these heights, it was called “Winiawa.”

Today, oh wanderer, while walking between shadows of ruins and buildings which have collapsed into the earth, only this do you care about: that your beloved city now embraces you and nestles you in its arms.

 

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It grows darker.

The great hills, vast groves, sprawling marshlands

do not strew themselves upon the eyes like garlands.

It grows darker.

From the sky’s gaping abyss onto the narrow footpath

the silent bears of night come running.

 

Above the streets,

black, shaggy, in a row

the bears of night will roll about the houses

till the moon from behind clouds explodes like a crater.

The moon will tilt the world toward the light.

 

Sheet metal roofs bang like a drum.

Down, up, a pearl-like stripe

lies unevenly:

in a perpendicular cluster

the suburb’s streetlamps.

 

They can’t stand up to the bears – that’s not saying much!

Cottages, inns, synagogues sag and squat

under the paw of the quiet darkness. 

Oh! The bears of night can squash the low ceilings!...

...but now the sky has become light.

 

Landscape: Wieniawa with the moon. 

 

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Wanderer, a companion you have.  From now on the full moon – faraway and silvery –  shall follow your footsteps.  It will lead you to the city of those who have died, where your loved ones lie beneath sod and rocks.  For you the moon will silver the old tenement houses on the Square; it will reveal apparitions inside the Castle’s church; eventually it will lead you again through Broad Street, the Kalinowszczyzna District, the Maundy Thursday District and  into the fields.

This is the moon, your companion.  Let poets say what they will: a shield, a silver dove, a supernatural sailing ship.  For you it is simply the moon.  Perhaps even the same moon with Pan Twardowski on it, or perhaps Saint George.  Because wasn’t this the same moon which shone above the street when a mother told an eight year-old: Saint George is fighting the dragon up there.  Because after all it took place right here in this city to which you return like the Prodigal Son. 

The wind -- once more the wind stirs.  Both of them, the moon and the wind, travel toward the cemetery.  To the ancestors.  And the wind brings some voices from the city’s towers.

 

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Clocks, night’s joyless faces,

give the password: mid - night, mid - night...

Down below

are city squares – sand-colored, flaxen-colored;

and streets – the long dugouts of darkness

tethered by chains of streetlamps.

 

On Lublin’s outskirts lies a black quadrangle.

The poem chants with a murmur of winds.

Birches, chestnut trees, arborvitaes, maples

gather round the island of the dead.

 

At night deserted alleys mutter like drainpipes.

The pale light of a lonely star rests against a shadow,

against ivy, somber periwinkle,

ferns.

 

Crosses of marble, bronze angels have stood up

sternly on the tops of coffins.

 

A rooster crows.

 

Engrave into your memory the inscription on the cemetery gate:  “Here now into dust will I fall asleep – on the last day from dust I shall arise...” 

 

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Quenched with sorrow, lost in thought, and blind to the world, the wanderer goes through the city.  But it’s deserted.  Here and there in the main street are conversations between late-night passers-by; here and there a gate slams shut.

His footsteps fall on the cobblestones – automatic, insignificant.  Yet isn’t he walking  amongst walls very familiar to him.  Beneath a streetlamp his pensive gaze could decipher the notices in shop windows.  In this store on the corner a child’s trumpet was bought for him when he was a youngster.  On that corner he bid his mother and sister farewell when he set off for the front.

And right here is the house in which he experienced the warmest moments. 

On the second floor a window is open.  Someone is playing a piano.

And now darkness. The moon has not hid itself in the clouds.  Wanderer, it is the darkness of Cracow Gate which has engulfed you. 

Rouse yourself, wake up, look all around!  In just a moment you will enter the Old Town’s square.

 

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Cobblestone streets, tenement-buildings of stone,

walls dark and sloping.

The moon rolls about the steep roof – so low. 

Hold on. Wait a moment –

like a pearl

the moon will tumble into the basin of the town square –

the basin will clink.

 

In the tawny night,

in and around old familiar corners, nooks, niches, recesses,

at gates, doorframes, and windows

a violet shadow, broken down,

enfeebled,

will kneel.

 

Yellow stars, cut down by the July heat,

fly – like a cloud of dust – they fly;

they wrinkle the firmament in gold streaks;

behind the Tribunal

in blind windowpanes the yellow stars gleam

as if fired from a silent rifle.

 

The summer night waits patiently: 

will the moon drift down, will it clink,

will it descend Grodzka Street.

Like silver the moon melts

in the morning dew, in the herbs’ scent. 

 

How beautiful!

 

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Well, though in July daybreak comes so early, morning is still far off.  You can stand here much longer and drink in the night’s charms.

The Old Town’s square.  Here’s the Acern House, there’s the Sobieski tenement-house.  And likewise right here is the corner with the stone lions.  This is where you used to walk to school.  You remember, for how could you forget?  Why, right here, and nowhere else, is the place where you experienced poetry for the first time while listening at night to the Old Town.  

Transform recollection into verse.  The concepts themselves:  “recollection and poetry are intimately related.” 

Here is the poem:

 

The sky changes, though evening hasn’t quieted down;

the wind keeps whispering ‘til it falls asleep. 

The sky rustles with purple.

The wind – no longer the wind – but a smile. 

 

From Dominican Street a choir sings,

Young maidens glorify Maria.

From Archdiocese Street lonely violins

Accompany their arias. 

 

The houses’ musical silence

joined to the rainbow’s arc

drops at the church front

like a ray of light, a lock of hair. 

 

And now someone has tightened the silence.

He strikes it with a fist of bronze.

The evening bell

dripping with the strength of metal

starts to play under the church cross:

one – and two – and three –

 

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Wanderer: there is only the moon and the houses, the wind and the churches, the stars and the lower streets.  You keep going, you keep walking; you pass by still one more gate, you climb the backstreets around the settlements at the foot of the castle walls, you stand before a low archway.  The archway is made of iron bars, and above it shines twin lictorian fasces.  You have passed by the iron gate, the castle courtyards; you have reached the foot of Prince Daniel’s castle-keep. 

You are in the castle’s chapel.  Kneel down.  A treasure-house this is and the heart of Lublin, city of the Jagiellonian dynasty.

 

The moon’s light like a pool of standing water

shone flat against the church window.

 

A streak of whitish glaze is in the dark interior.

A color like that has no name.

In the darkness a mobile tunnel

travels, moves

as if the blue celestial night ran a silver finger

over the Gothic arches of slenderness,

over the frescos.

 

The way a child runs his finger over a page in a book as he reads...

 

Here rocks are painted by the Virgin’s throne

whereas in another place a duplicate swarthy Christ

measures out wine into two chalices.

 

Saints in the cloister, oh stern Maria,

flowers dripping from alcoves, doorframes, niches,

oh archangel brightened by your own breastplate – what do you dream about in a ray of light?

What kinds of apocalypses do dragons dream of, or eagles?

 

No trumpet calls out.

 

Inside the church’s darkness the moon withdraws its fingers.

 

Behind the windowpane Orion twinkles.

 

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Once there was magic and marvels.  They are no more; things have become ordinary, commonplace.  Only this moon remains...

Your time has come now.  You must descend Castle Street into the gloom of backstreets, then emerge from the darkness onto Broad Street, which indeed is broad.  And from there, through slumbering suburbs, your own legs will carry you, night wanderer, into a far-off world.  You will leave behind walls so familiar to you from the old days, when in this very spot you used to run after a wooden hoop, when in times past you looked delightedly with big eyes at the throng in the Corpus Christi Day procession, when every Christmas Eve was more silvery than in fairytales.

And now?

Those people are no more, nor are those days.  But, oh wanderer, a shadow accompanies you, as always, and night is cast from the molten silver of its afterglow.  Oh leave behind this city with cheerfulness in your heart, the same way you greeted it. 

 

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On a roof a weathervane is singing,

the spider of a pale star creeps forth.

In black trees swaying

lanterns wink. 

 

From bakeries drifts a warm aroma

and a silence flows from closed gates.

If a dog in a far-off suburb did not bark,

you would feel – as never before – alone. 

 

Alone, perhaps with only a dear little river

which no one can hear,

on such a clear night of azure

and the river – the skies’ mistress –

without fail heaves a sigh 

from dusk till dawn

between the walls...

 

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Goodnight, Old Town, goodnight. From this place white roads depart to the north.  They narrow down into paths. The paths spill out into small trickles of footpaths.  On one of them now the wanderer is but a small dark speck.

He has disappeared behind a hill.

Goodnight, my city,

 goodnight….