By Vivian Lamarque

Translated by Sarah Stickney

from Issue 25


I prefer Symborska
I prefer Symborska on the banks of the Warta river
who prefers conquered countries
to those who conquer, I prefer the living
I prefer the dead, I prefer the dead fallen
in battle their names written on the monument in the piazza
so that their children “here read this” tell their children and those children
tell their children but then one day–stop–
no one in the piazza shows anything to anyone
I prefer to know that we are tiny ants
who will be swept away by wind swept away
by time, I prefer everything, I prefer all
all the flowers in the fields, to bring them to the young
fallen dead in battle, I prefer the word cemetery
to do justice, to take away the rainwater
from the fake flowers that don’t drink it anyway
and give it to the real ones that drink it right up
that drink it down to the last drop
like children with a straw
I prefer rain, the voice of the rain
and that of the sea, I prefer to sit and watch
I prefer to know that we are tiny ants
who will be swept away by wind, swept away
by time, I prefer madrigals, I prefer wings
I prefer the word laugh I prefer the word
cry which in Polish are smiac and puakac
I prefer Szym to “Life you’re beautiful she says”
I prefer Szymborska, I prefer Wislawa
which in Polish is pronounced Visuava.

Vivian Lamarquehas published eight books of poems, as well as a volume of selected poetry. She has won numerous prizes, including the Premio Viareggio Opera Prize and several others.

Sarah Stickney received her MFA from the University of New Hampshire. She is a former Fulbright Grantee for the translation of Italian poetry. The Guest in the Wood (Chelsea Editions: New York, 2013), her co-translations of Elisa Biagini’s selected poems, was chosen the University of Rochester in 2014 for its Best Translated Book Award for poetry. She lives in Annapolis, MD, where she teaches at St. John’s College.

Original text: Vivian Lamarque, three poems: “Compro oro,” “Preferisco Symborska II,” “Ritratto Con Neve” from Madre d’Inverno. Milan: Mondadori, 2016.

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