I Wash the Shirt


For the last time I wash the shirt
of my father who died.
The shirt smells of sweat. I remember
that sweat from my childhood,
so many years
I washed his shirts and underwear,
I dried them
at an iron stove in the workshop,
he would put them on unironed.

From among all bodies in the world,
animal, human,
only one exuded that sweat.
I breathe it in
for the last time. Washing this shirt
I destroy it
forever.
Now
only paintings survive him
which smell of oils.


     Polish; trans. Czeslaw Milosz
          & Leonard Nathan


Anna Swir, Polish, trans. Czeslaw Milosz & Leonard Nathan, Talking to My Body, Copper Canyon Press, 1996.