I Knocked My Head against the Wall

By Anna Swir 1909–1984 Anna Swir
As a child
I put my finger in the fire   
to become
a saint.

As a teenager
every day I would knock my head against the wall.

As a young girl
I went out through a window of a garret   
to the roof
in order to jump.

As a woman
I had lice all over my body.
They cracked when I was ironing my sweater.

I waited sixty minutes   
to be executed.
I was hungry for six years.

Then I bore a child,   
they were carving me   
without putting me to sleep.

Then a thunderbolt killed me
three times and I had to rise from the dead three times   
without anyone’s help.

Now I am resting
after three resurrections.

Anna Swir, “I Knocked My Head against the Wall” 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)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet Anna Swir 1909–1984

POET’S REGION Poland

Subjects Gender & Sexuality, Living, Social Commentaries

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 . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Gender & Sexuality, Living, Social Commentaries

POET’S REGION Poland

Poetic Terms Free Verse

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.