Cannibals

by Mira Rosenthal, translating from the Polish by Tomasz Rozycki

copyright ©English Translation and Introduction Copyright 2013 by Mira Rosenthal

When I began to write, I didn’t know
who would be waiting for it. In the window,
a curtain hangs unmoved, a mess spreads on the floor:
loose change, CDs, an unmade bed, the entrails

of night. Signs of a struggle, deserted.
Someone left traces on these cups, this carpet,
someone bled out from self-inflicted wounds,
signed his name backwards, backwards. At this mirror,

a face, a face bit someone, a world leapt
from the other side, whole, identical
but in reverse. It occupied the best
places tonight and settled back to rest,

and no one sees it’s false. Winter comes slowly,
frost pricks the window, pricks it and draws blood.

Notes on the Poem

How does the title of this poem correspond to what it might be suggesting? Does the title "Cannibals" create expectations or even trepidation as you proceed to read the poem, translated by Mira Rosenthal from the Polish poem "Ludozercy" by Tomasz Rozycki? Many of the images illustrate disarray and convey unhappiness and depression, including "a curtain hangs unmoved" and "an unmade bed". Some words contain more explicit menace, such as "the entrails // of night". There are even suggestions and phrases pointing to murder or suicide ... "signs of a struggle" and "self-inflicted wounds" ... or even something otherworldly or more difficult to explain: "At this mirror, a face, a face bit someone, a world leapt from the other side, whole, identical but in reverse." Is the feeling of threat culminating in violence genuine or some kind of frustrating red herring? Are all the physical clues really just metaphors for a maelstrom of mental, emotional and psychological anguish? Based on the title, you might anticipate certain things going into the poem. Does the title have the same or in fact a very different meaning once you've read and considered the poem?

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