Poland (just as vast inside as out)
For Stanley Czerwonka 1971-2013
by Jason Emde
Railroad Amsterdam to Katowice
via Berlin & Wroclaw. Longest day.
Sinister train sounds in the vast November
black. Bloodlands. Forgot
to change money, hungry all the way.
My brother’d said Keep your wits about you the popular thing
now is to chloroform tourists, if you’re not careful
you’ll wake up naked in St Petersburg. Also be careful
you don’t get off at the wrong stop, beware North Katowice, New Katowice,
Central Katowice, Old Katowice.
An ugly drunk in the final compartment browbeats
everybody, bellows, plays shit music
on his shit cassette player. I creep
carefully into the corridor. Open
the window. Mingle my breath with the rushing dark.
Fall out at the final station hungry thirsty tired
& there he is on the steps. My little brother. Smiling.
In his high-ceilinged apartment he makes dinner,
makes tea, plays Dylan’s Up To Me.
My first time. We sit smoking, bent to the music.
Two days later an ex-nun drives us to Auschwitz.
Brick chimneys in Birkenau’s bleak plain. Polish skies.
All of it. My smallness. And the weather
is awful. I read later that’s what
everybody says. It’s always awful there.
Krakow. In the square St Mary’s trumpet call’s cut off
by a Mongol arrow in 1241. Photo of
my brother & me & the dragon Smock Wawelski.
On the train back to Berlin a man looks exactly
like my father, right down to the sweater.
Stan: your father from Kurki, your mother
from Suchowola. Where? Villages
with both names all over Poland.
More mystery & gap. Your erasure
accelerating. My loss getting bigger.
You went to Poland as a kid on a trip
& didn’t want to go back to Canada.
Told your mom your dad would get over
you eventually. This is where you come from.
Where it started. And I myself am not over you.
About the Author
Jason Emde is a writer and graduate student in the MFA Creative Writing program at the University of British Columbia. He has published one book ('My Hand’s Tired and My Heart Aches: Letters From Japan 1995-2005,' Kalamalka Press, 2005), and completed a second ('Infinite Path: Modern Reports From Japan’s 1200 Year-Old Buddhist Pilgrimage'). He has lived in Japan since 1995 and currently lives in Gifu City with his wife, Maho, and two sons, Joe and Sasha