The Survivor Poem, by Tadeusz Ròzewicz

Poeta Tadeusz Różewicz czerwiec 1979 r. soa PAP/PAI/Reprodukcja

Tadeusz Różewicz (9 October 1921 – 24 April 2014) was a Polish poet, who fought in the Polish resistance during the second world war. His brother Janusz, also a resistance fighter, was murdered by the Gestapo in 1944.

The Survivor Poem

I am twenty-four
led to slaughter
I survived.

The following are empty synonyms:
man and beast
love and hate
friend and foe
darkness and light.

The way of killing men and beasts is the same
I’ve seen it:
truckfuls of chopped-up men
who will not be saved.

Ideas are mere words:
virtue and crime
truth and lies
beauty and ugliness
courage and cowardice.

Virtue and crime weigh the same
I’ve seen it:
in a man who was both
criminal and virtuous.

I seek a teacher and a master
may he restore my sight hearing and speech
may he again name objects and ideas
may he separate darkness from light.

I am twenty-four
led to slaughter
I survived.

Translated by Adam Czerniawski
Tadeusz Ròzewicz