A Conversation Through the Door


At five in the morning
I knock on his door.
I say through the door:
in the hospital at Sliska Street
your son, a soldier, is dying.

He half-opens the door,
does not remove the chain.
Behind him his wife
shakes.

I say: your son asks his mother
to come.
He says: the mother won't come.
Behind him the wife
shakes.

I say: the doctor allowed us
to give him wine.
He says: please wait.

He hands me a bottle through the door,
locks the door,
locks the door with a second key.

Behind the door the wife
begins to scream as if she were in labor.


        Polish; trans. Czeslaw Milosz
             & Leonard Nathan


Anna Swir, Polish, trans. Czeslaw Milosz & Leonard Nathan, Happy as a Dog's Tail, Harcourt, 1985.