Ola Baczynski

Inherited Evils

The inside of his cobalt jacket was lined with silver,

And he carried a box of wrinkled, red Marlboros through the rain.

It danced loosely within the cage of his fingers.


Between puffs he lifts himself up onto the fence.

We sit and watch drops kiss the mouths of the matzevas.

They took these tombs and made from them the roads.

Busloads turned to billowing smoke.


He taps his cigarette.

We watch the ashes disappear.


He touches my wet cheek,

Says that my sad eyes are not those of martyrs.

There are no souls except the ones under our shoes.


His fingers disappear in his dark curls.

He tells me I should have stopped my great grandfathers.

You cannot wash blood from your hands,

It poisons the skin.


My kisses tear open his wounds.

The star of his ancestors branded into his flesh.

I reach for him,

But only feel the smoke.

We are victims of histories,

Committed before our times.


My hands are red to you.




I sit, cross-legged, between two weeping willow trees

And wait to evaporate.

Our bodies, all hunched over our haunches

With dark curtains hiding our twisted faces.

I branded my poetry into their dead mother.
I branded my dead poetry into their dead mother.




I sleep most peacefully on humming subways,

Cuddled up next to strangers whose names I will never know.

A tired worker scuffs his heavy, black boots.

He smells like my father used to.

He picks his wrinkled forehead with a nail caked in dust.
He picks out the dust he is made of.




I taught my daughter how to tickle flutes and how to paint poetry.

I taught her how to care for abandoned luggage and how to pick lilies,

How to pray to God and how to loiter on writer’s blocks.

I showed her how to weave crowns from weeds.

I did not teach her how to write goodbye letters.
I did not teach her how to tie a knot.