The Birds
by Joanna Kurowska

I was passing by their colorful cages
they flew from a mouth to an ear
and sang:

“Mmm, I liked it.  I bit it and chewed it raw...
you know, I don’t cook”

and another bird:
“She really is so dear, last time I spoke to her...”

the third bird sang in German
so I couldn’t understand

they could fly wherever they wanted
the moment they were let out
so incredibly free

but, carefully, they stayed in their cages
flying from one mouth to just one ear,
not mine

by Joanna Kurowska

the day was beautiful, in the streets
a south wind pirouetted
with golden leaves

babysitters pushed strollers;
a Latino boy, his bare chest tattooed,
sold cotton candy

a young couple twined their arms,
laughing; the mailman
emptied a rusty mailbox

all pretended life was bearable
as if this crumb of summer
could make anyone happy

really, happiness was
within reach; a thin screen
separated them from it

basking in the sunshine, smiling,
they passed by, without
stretching their arms to pick it

by Joanna Kurowska

                           For Don Marshall

In a broken jar, the sea leaks through the cracks.
Sailors despair; nothing rocks them anymore.
The gristmill of time changes aquatic plants,
fish, prayers, and people, into yellow sand.

In a mirror, love watches its image—fright.
Their glances—a bridge stretching into the dark.
A rainbow of faces flicker in the glass;
one of them is yours but you don’t know which one.

The spirit hiding in life’s seashell is pain.
He is the god-figure that opens the door
and takes you to the earth’s heart and the hand’s palm
where long-forgotten sources flow over stones.

by Joanna Kurowska

I loved cupboards
—the little spaces in which
I arranged packages of tea
ceramic mugs, saucers,
and fine china

I loved the secrecy
and the mellow smell
of the woody interiors
superbly designed
yet subject to change

I thought they would
never let me down—
my small eternities;
but they too go away
one after another

For all the tea and fine china,
they refuse to contain me
When I open the little doors
I hear a silent good-bye
ringing in my thoughts



Joanna Kurowska is a poet-immigrant, the author of two books of
poetry in Polish and two in English (
Inclusions, from Cervena Barva
Press, and
The Wall and Beyond, an ebook from eLectio Publishing,
both forthcoming in 2013).  Her poems have appeared in journals
such as
American Tanka, Apple Valley Review, Dappled Things,
Bateau, Christianity and Literature, Illuminations, International
Poetry Review
, Room Magazine, Solo Novo, Vineyards, and
elsewhere.  Kurowska’s critical works have appeared, among others,
Slavic and East European Journal, Joseph Conrad Today,
Anglican Theological Review, NewPages, and Sarmatian Review.

On “The Birds,” “Indian Summer,” “Joseph Conrad,” and
The poem “Joseph Conrad” has a special significance to me.  I
first wrote it in my native Polish.  That version was published in
Kultura (Paris) and in one of my Polish poetry collections.  Conrad
was England’s famous novelist.  Before he started to write, he
worked as a sailor in the British navy.  That is why he left, at the
age of seventeen, his native Poland—to become a sailor.  Though
fluent in French, at that time he did not speak English.  He started
his navy career in France, not in England.  Eventually, he became
the renowned author of such novels as
Lord Jim, Heart of Darkness,
and many others.  In my poem, I wanted to capture some of the
aura of Conrad’s fiction.  The poem is dedicated to Don Marshall,
who supervised my doctoral dissertation on Conrad. In the process,
I began to use English as my poetic medium.  So it seems to me
almost uncanny that now, as a poet writing in English, I am
publishing an English version of my originally Polish poem about
a Pole who became a famous novelist writing in English!  
“The Birds”—one of my first poems written in English—reflects
some of the tensions of my language transition; the remaining two
are recent English originals.

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Apple Valley Review:
A Journal of Contemporary

ISSN 1931-3888

Volume 7, Number 2
(Fall 2012)

Copyright © 2012
by Leah Browning, Editor.  

All future rights to material
published in the
Valley Review
are retained
by the individual authors
and artists.
Indian Summer
Joseph Conrad