the poem that started it all ...

Summer of 2006, I purchased from a charity shop a slim volume of 'modern' poetry, illustrated with the works of modern artists. I believe it was published in the late 1960's/ early 1970's. I still have it - my very first book of poems - somewhere packed in a box with all my other books. And this poem, this was the poem that began my love affair with poetry ...... inspiring me to take red crayon to paper and begin scribbling my own poems. I have not ever found any more works by
Jerzy Harasymowicz, but I wish I could. My searching led me to Wislawa Szymborska and Czelaw Milosz, contemporaries of Jerzy, and from there to a larger world of words and rhythms and ideas. As Thomas Gray, English poet, states: "Poetry is thoughts that breathe and words that burn."

The Bicycle


forgotten by tourists
a bicycle joined
a herd
of mountain goats

with its splendidly turned
silver horns
it became
their leader

with its bell
it warned them
of danger

with them
it partook
in romps
on snow covered

the bicycle
gazed from above
on people walking;
with the goats

it fought
over a goat,
with a bearded buck

it reared up at eagles
on its back wheel

it was happy
though it never
nibbled at grass

or drank
from a stream

until once
a poacher
shot it

by the silver trophy
of its horns

and then
above the Tatras was seen
against the sparkling
January sky

the angel of death erect
riding to heaven
holding the bicycle's
dead horns.

~ by Jerzy Harasymowicz

(trans. from Polish by Edmund Ordon)

** There is more Jerzy Harasymowicz on the web these days - thankfully! Here is what poet Czesław Miłosz writes about his contemporary in his book, Postwar Polish poetry: an anthology :

"Harasymowicz's first volume published in 1956 bore the title Wonders and it defines his work quite well. His poems are surrealistic fairy tales. His is a world of murky cats swearing in slang, trees acting as princesses, saints from old paintings reciting prayers on the choir loft of an abandoned country church, kettles wearing red tailcoats, carpets with masochistic inclinations. His metaphorical inventiveness seems unlimited, and he builds his tenderly or cruelly humourous stories in verse on the sensuous qualities of the simplest things he observes.

I see a basic difference between such a poet as Harasymowicz and the poets of America or France: his imagination is not urban and, consequently, he can name an astonishing number of plants, trees, birds, often playing with those names and inventing images by mixing nature with the history of art. The medieval city of Cracow, where he lives, is often present in his poems, but the woods and remote villages of the highlands are particularly close to his heart.

His stubborn clinging to poetry conceived as the realm of personal myths protects him from those who ask for 'meaning' and he always maintained a complete indifference to ratiocinations. It is a pity that the musical quality of his poetry cannot be rendered in translation."



gz said...


Adullamite said...


soubriquet said...

One is assuming the exclamation mark within a triangle, used to illustrate this post is an example of another blogger performing a 'soubriquet error' as it has become known in the blogging world.
But then again, horned prancing bicycle images are few and far betwixt.

goatman said...

It being hunting season here, now, this rings true. The horned deer are the quest. Yeah I know, metaphor and all and I see only a hanging 12-point rack. What do you want from an engineer?

soubriquet said...

Oooh look!
A blue bicycle!
What did you do?

red dirt girl said...

gz ~ a happenstance encounter that changes how one views life and the world around!

adullamite ~ I'm assuming you saw a triangle with an exclamation point, as Soubry pointed out. Hopefully all is now put right. As for the poem, well .... I can see the bicycle prancing with goats, and I like to think I shall see it again in heaven with its silver horns. But that is only my point of view!

soubry ~ thank you. hopefully all is corrected. Indeed, the soubriquet error message is going viral ...

goatman ~ i once did an in-depth search of mr. Harasymowicz and tried to relate his life experiences (polish resistance movement) to the poem .... now i just laugh. A poem is a poem and whatever else you take from it, engineer or not.

soubry ~ yes, isn't it amazing that i can just pass my hand over the screen and voila! a blue bicycle pops up? which reminds me: the blue bicycle was another one of my erstwhile blogs, along with the ORIGINAL sisterhood of the pointy heels ...


red dirt girl said...

Another poem by Jerzy:


Poisoned mushrooms
want to be picked
at all costs

Green undergrowth
cuts the hand
like a razor

Marshes try
to sell their carpets
to everybody

In a clearing
black with poison

Hemlock and hellebore
smile at you

The woods are quiet
and gentle

translated by Victor Contoski

soubriquet said...

Holy Shit!
That's a menacing poem.
Now I'm going to be scared when I go for a walk!

red dirt girl said...

Soubry ~ I shall send you one about umbrellas. Possibly it is wise to take an umbrella with you whilst walking in the woods ..... or a large stick. It pays to be prepared!


Anonymous said...

i remember that poem. It reminds me of the goat that ate my bicycle. Grandpa shot that goat.

Adullamite said...

Soub be careful, she may send a mushroom pie over!

goatman said...

I don't hunt!

red dirt girl said...

Hi cowboy ~ Yes, I think this is the 4th or 5th time I've posted this poem ...! Goodness, surely the goat should have known the bicycle only wanted to be its friend. A goat once ate my raincoat at the petting zoo. Nobody shot it, though...


red dirt girl said...

Hey, hey, hey Adullamite! What sort of seditious behaviour are you drumming up here on my blog ??? If I sent any sort of pie, it would be a red dirt mud pie ...! Unfortunately, your customs agents frown upon imported foodstuffs.


red dirt girl said...

Hi goatman! Okay .... so YOU don't hunt, but apparently you live in an area that attracts a number of hunters. I recommend keeping your bicycles and ducks and goats safely marked with bright vests and penned.


rudawy said...

Hi, accidentally I've jumped into Ur blog. And I ve stucked! For many reasons. But one of them is huge smile, that is not disapearing from my mouth, when I read about Jerzy Harasymowicz poem, that "has started all". I'm writing now the book about him. He is quite forgotten poet in Poland acctually, so my surprise was much bigger, finding Ur post! Here s my adress rudawy@gmail.com ('rudawy' includes as well the meaing of 'red hair') :) Would be great if U would write to me. I'd love to know U better and tell Ur story in my book.

P.S. "Bicycle" is actually a part of bigger poem called "Cross or small poem" from 1960. It was never published in Poland with such a tittle and in such a short version. But anyway - is one of my favourits poems of Harasymowicz :)

rudawy said...

Lataly in Dublin was published a book about Jerzy Harasymowicz. In English of course. Deep analyses and many poems translated. Highly reccomended:


Greetings from Poland,

red dirt girl said...

Glad to see you're back, rudway!!

:) big smile from me