Large Intestine

By Anna Swir 1909–1984 Anna Swir
Look in the mirror. Let us both look.
Here is my naked body.
Apparently you like it,
I have no reason to.
Who bound us, me and my body?
Why must I die
together with it?
I have the right to know where the borderline   
between us is drawn.
Where am I, I, I myself.

Belly, am I in the belly? In the intestines?   
In the hollow of the sex? In a toe?
Apparently in the brain. I do not see it.
Take my brain out of my skull. I have the right   
to see myself. Don’t laugh.
That’s macabre, you say.

It’s not me who made
my body.
I wear the used rags of my family,   
an alien brain, fruit of chance, hair   
after my grandmother, the nose
glued together from a few dead noses.   
What do I have in common with all that?   
What do I have in common with you, who like   
my knee, what is my knee to me?

Surely
I would have chosen a different model.

I will leave both of you here,
my knee and you.
Don’t make a wry face, I will leave you all my body   
to play with.
And I will go.
There is no place for me here,
in this blind darkness waiting for
corruption.
I will run out, I will race
away from myself.
I will look for myself   
running
like crazy
till my last breath.

One must hurry
before death comes. For by then   
like a dog jerked by its chain
I will have to return
into this stridently suffering body.   
To go through the last
most strident ceremony of the body.

Defeated by the body,
slowly annihilated because of the body

I will become kidney failure
or the gangrene of the large intestine.   
And I will expire in shame.

And the universe will expire with me,   
reduced as it is
to a kidney failure
and the gangrene of the large intestine.

Anna Swir, “Large Intestine” from Talking to My Body, translated by Czeslaw Milosz and Leonard Nathan. Copyright © 1996 by Czeslaw Milosz and Leonard Nathan. Used by permission of Copper Canyon Press, www.coppercanyonpress.org.

Source: Talking to My Body (1996)

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Poet Anna Swir 1909–1984

POET’S REGION Poland

Subjects Health & Illness, Nature, Living, The Body

Poetic Terms Free Verse

Biography

Anna Swir (Świrszczyńska) was born in Warsaw, Poland, to an artistic though impoverished family. She worked from an early age, supporting herself while she attended university to study medieval Polish literature. In the 1930s she worked for a teachers’ association, served as an editor, and began publishing poetry. Swir joined the Resistance during World War II and worked as a military nurse during the Warsaw Uprising; at one . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Health & Illness, Nature, Living, The Body

POET’S REGION Poland

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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