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Currents: two poems by ewa chrusciel

Commentary on Strata

In Ewa Chrusciel's first book in English, Strata, an exile's memories are so overcharged that they explode into “dots. We are burying them every day. We are burying them in staccato rhythm. They rise and accrete. They beat electric letters in the air.” Magicalized by an enormous nostalgia, these memories are at once a rapture of possession (of being possessed) and defeatingly untotalizable. There are no connectives, the dots just won't add up. Even so, Chrusciel's striking sentences keep intermingling in ever-changing permutations, as if seeking a crystallizing formula. Strata is at once a tumultuous revelation of how much of the past there still is, right here in the near flight of letters, and of the burn of being in time at all, the difficulty of catching up with oneself in a universe that is never one, but always scattered. Strata is a book of concuspiscences, of combings for pleasures, yes, but even more for the Sacred of the Book it wants to be. In its every line, it shows that the rhapsodic is the right approach to the truth about the world."

Calvin Bedient

Jorie Graham, the author of numerous poetry collections and the Boyleston Professor of Poetry at Harvard University offers an introduction to Ewa Chrusciel and to Strata in the Boston Review. Graham desribes the book as a "hybrid text incorporating letters and poems" which "investigates issues of identity, mediation, protest, Central European politics, and the Sublime. Strata, which means 'loss' in Polish, 'accumulations' in English, is Chrusciel's longest work originally written in English, with Polish and other languages interwoven sporadically."

The publication also publishes several of Chrusciel's poems at Boston Review.

Field, Contemporary Poetry and Poetics, (Oberlin College Press,Spring 2011) has published a review of Strata titled "A Big Yellow Moment." The piece was written by Kazim Ali.

na                               no                               la

They come as yellow secrets. They bilocate. They are
ubiquitous as Tartar cheeks. They air the air. We bury them.
They hover as hummingbirds, calculating their rates of
return. They come in volcanic lavish. They come in lekking
crowds. They come as juncos. They perch on branches like
monk hedgehogs. The come as seven foxes jumping to meet
innocence. They tingle. Sorrelic apparitions. They speck in
the morning. They thistle. There is a tigress mother wanting
to trim your hair. They come in high-strung beads and scatter
into our vessels. They dot. They come as hard-faced dybbuks.*
They are relics of grief and light. They re-colonize. They
want to rent one line. They rap on our door with churned up
grains, tides, whispers. They come as drafts of juniper. They
spread on the floor as a cross. We bury them. They come in
black chadors. Rising and swaying parasols. Thin as grass.
They come as silver jaguars. They want to breakdown. They
come to insulate us with snow. Do you hear them? They
try to get where they belong. With forget-me-nots. They
have fancy hats. They pebble across the floor. They fall from
marigold trees and lie crucified on the road. Get up and sing.
We are burying them in staccato rhythm. Others – miniscule
kisses. Some as heavy footsteps. We are burying them every
day. They rise and accrete. They trespass.They beat electric
letters in the air. They come to us. They come with swinging
hips. They come as minnows. They come in wrinkles. They
come as a host of molecules. They swarm into this lighthouse.
They pinch like too much love. They hop always to a higher
branch. They come invincible. They come to torture. They
come to soothe. They come for romance. They flip and
tremble tiny farewells. They come as mustards seeds. Do you
see them in a mulberry tree? They slide down the needles.
They come as growth on wolf trees, the dead winking. They
air the air. They come to forgive. They ask for forgiveness.
They come as hyphae. They come as hostages. They come as
clogged streets. They come in slow trains. Burning bushes,
doves, manna, the blood of horses' necks. They come as
purgatory souls. They chip off the wall. In loops and whorls.
They come in giggles. They come in almonds. They come to
eye us, inside our panther skins.

A dybbuk is the spirit of a person who died prematurely and whose destiny was left unfulfilled. The spirit enters someone else to complete its work on earth. It comes from Jewish beliefs. (From Ewa Chrusicel)

a                                                                poem

Children swing on a rope down to a river. Water is shocked
by this splutter. We stay on shore, even though we know the
water is master of gravitation and will save us from flight.
Unlike Mary's Yes, a swing into hearts ajar.

I dream of the day when my syllables will hold rough
wood, my letters will be sewn in a stove or fireplace. It's not
the sacrifice we resist, but the beauty. The intensity of the
instance burns. For it has to turn into another instance. There
is nobility in asking the same thing over and over.

Children swing on a rope down to a river. Water is shocked
by this splutter. The truth burns us before it falls away. We
remain on shore.

When did she start to witness evanescence? The animals saw
her suffering in light and saw that it was good and took her
light in suffering. A dog started to bleed. A cat died after she
left. Life was not enough. The occasional splutter of light. The
simplicity of smile. There is nobility in asking.

Children swing on a rope down to a river.

Nico's Aya speaks of light and evanescence. The blessing of
his Grandmother. Woven DNA patterns. Now it has holes
and no warmth, but the child holds onto it and repeats:
“AYA's church.” Not knowing that Aya, his grandmother, wove
him into Being. There were many blankets. The plants saw
and knew it was good. There is nobility in weaving the same
blanket over and over. We are impatient to rid ourselves of
time. It takes centuries for Arctic plants to spread and form a
quaking mat, a circumference of clarities.


-From Strata by Ewa Chrusciel (published by Emergency Press)

The poem above was inspired by "that famous bog area in New London (N.H.),...covered by a quaking mat of plants," according to the poet.