A Wedding Party

by Marek Kazmierski translating from Polish by Wioletta Greg

Our family traipses home at dawn,
through fields of poppies
the police haven’t sniffed out yet.

Children, their tiny boots knocking
the heads off bluish puff-balls,
fighting off mists with a flagging balloon.

We walk as exhausted as nun moths
which, having copulated all night,
rest on a bed of oak leaves.

Damp air turning talc solid
in wrinkles, unfurling perms,
seeking a higher incarnation
in far-off lights.

Someone’s slip-on shoe in a steaming turd,
puke on a clump of horseradish leaves.

We struggle across boggy meadows,
stumbling through the valley of Josaphat.

Notes on the Poem

The family trudging home after what should be a celebratory occasion is either very tired or very dispirited, or maybe a bit of both. How do you, the reader, feel after you've made your way through the colourful, rueful and crude humour (in fact, does the narrator intend the poem's observations to be humorous?) in "A Wedding Party", Marek Kazmierski's translation into English of Wioletta Greg's poem in Polish, from the 2015 Griffin Poetry Prize shortlisted collection "Finite Formulae & Theories of Chance". Since they're journeying home "at dawn", it's clearly been a long evening. As they traipse, that word describing their collective gait connotes weariness, but also reluctance. Are they reluctant to leave the joys of the wedding celebration or reluctant to return home? That they're walking through "fields of poppies the police haven't sniffed out yet." strikes a bit of an ominous tone, don't you think? To compare their collective fatigue to that of sated nun moths is rather intriguing, to say the least. Nun moths are a common insect and considered a pest, and the larvae that would be the product of their busy night's activities are considered threats to spruce and other trees. Now, is that a pleasant way to describe one's family? The mishaps on the journey home grown more unsavoury with every line, culminating in the ragtag partygoers "stumbling through the Valley of Josaphat" Mentioned only once in the Bible, it is surmised that this valley - possibly real, possibly imaginary - is where the Last Judgement will take place. For heaven's sake, what in the world has happened to this family this evening that they have stumbled through unfriendly and foul terrain to a place of judgement? The majesty of what should have been a special and happy occasion has indeed deflated rapidly, like a "flagging balloon" indeed.

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