My grandpa asks me to say Polish things in English

Photo: © Olga Breydo. All Rights Reserved.

Powiedz coś.
Well, what do you want me to say?
Przyleciałem z rodzicami do Polski odwiedzić mojego dziadka.
I flew to Poland with my parents to visit my grandpa.
Wspaniale, he chuckles. Super, and blinks at his son.

Jeszcze raz.
Again… Is that what you want me to say?
Or if you want me to say something again but different, say that.
He gathers ideas from around the room—the table
my aunt set, her hands in her lap now.
That evening, after we leave, they will magiclessly
pull a bed out of the couch.

Gościmy się.
(It’s not as short of a request as it sounds, the words long
associated with a family-steep tradition.) We’re having sweets,
drinking tea, instant coffee—really,
it’s all a treat. A stronger chuckle this time,
though chokier. The firanki undulate,
letting pass the uprising draft coming in off the courtyard,
over the balcony and through the open sliding-glass door.

And then he says to say, Ja uczę
pisanie i literatury w Ameryce.
I teach writing and literature in America.
Loud and outward this time, and shaking
his head like loosening the knot of a krawat at
the party. Pieprzona Komuna.
Fucking Communism? I appeal to my mother,
her keeled over, wheezy laughter
among the others’ chortles
of no relief to me—the responsibility to join
their voices all mine.

Originally from Poland, Marek Kulig grew up in New Jersey and now lives in Massachusetts where he writes for a local food magazine. Kulig has an MA in English Literature from Middlebury College and has contributed to several writers’ workshops, residencies, and programs, including Cuttyhunk Island Writers’ Residency, Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, Disquiet International Literary Program, and the Network of Eastern European Writers (NEEW). His poems and translations are published or forthcoming in The Esthetic Apostle, High Shelf Press, and National Translation Month.

Appears In

Issue 8

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