Warsaw, October: rose-madder by four,
the soldierly grey boulevards slippery

with tickets to winter. After forty years rebuilding,
the Old Town is like this beautiful girl I knew

whose face was wheel-broken in a crash,
and remade so well it was hard to say how

she looked wrong. I’d brought two questions here—
holding them as if they might slip: who were

my mother’s people? Where did they die?
In an attic-archive—deep card indexes, ink turned lilac

with age—I handed my questions to a love-laborer
in a yarmulke; with sad palms and a shake

of the head he regretted that any answers now
lay probably beyond our reach. So

I abandoned questing and went back to tourism;
joined the passeggiata, drank black tea, got stickied

under sooty lime trees, saw boisterous children,
all knees and elbows, skyline-capering

on the wall at the river-divide. Beyond
their frail silhouettes against the petrol dusk

huge cranes were moving, courtly, confident,
building another new Warsaw across the Vistula.

More Poems by Sam Willetts