Before the Eyes of the World

April 27, 2023
A photograph of a metal fittings with holes cut into them that resemble human faces
Jewish Museum Berlin / Photo by Davie Dunn / Flickr

Mommy, mommy
repeated Tyre Nichols
with his last breaths
kicked by the boots
of five policemen
under his mother’s window in Memphis

Please let me go
my mommy doesn’t know where I am

begged my seven-year-old cousin Benio
caught in Lviv in August 1942
while they were taking Benio
from his doorstep
they were murdering
several thousand Jews
in Lviv

Mommy, mommy
call the children writhing
under the bombs in Mariupol
buried in the rubble of their homes
before the eyes of the world
before the eyes of their mothers

the kicked man screamed too softly
the nabbed child begged weakly
the bombed children fell silent

And mommy?
She gave birth in pain
she fed her children with hope
she could not save them . . .

February 27, 2023
Translation from the Polish

Editorial note: The Polish original is forthcoming in Wyspa, no. 1 (2023).

Anna Frajlich is an award-winning Polish poet and writer. Her work includes eighteen books of poetry, some of which have been translated into English, French, Italian, Ukrainian, and Spanish. For over thirty years she taught Polish language and literature at Columbia University.

Alice-Catherine Carls is Tom Elam Distinguished Professor of History at the University of Tennessee at Martin. An internationally published diplomatic and cultural historian of twentieth-century Europe, she is also a translator and literary critic. She serves on several editorial boards and commissions in the United States and abroad.

Piotr Florczyk is a multilingual poet, translator, and critic. His recent books include Granice, a collection of poems, and a co-edited volume of scholarly articles, Polish Literature as World Literature.