Ewa Chrusciel was born in southern Poland. In high school she took part in a national literature Olympiad and won admission to the Polish university of her choosing. After a year in New York, she returned to Krakow to enter the graduate program at Jagiellonian University, where she wrote a thesis on "container metaphors in Emily Dickinson's poetry," taught English, and translated Jack London, Isaac Bashevis Singer, and Joseph Conrad–her compatriot into Polish. She then returned to the United States to do her doctorate at Illinois State University. She currently teaches literature at Colby-Sawyer College in New Hampshire and, in her spare time, works as a ski instructor in Colorado.
Chrusciel's PhD dissertation, "The Recuperation of Closure and Epiphany in Postmodern Poetics," focuses on the ways in which various poets complicate the reductive opposition between "closed" and "open" texts that permeates much avant-garde and contemporary work. She claims that poetry can be neither fully defined via hidden closure nor non-closure, but rather through a third, "emergent space," a conceptual blend that arises from the oscillation between closural and a-closural tendencies in the text itself, as well as in the relation of this text to a reader's construct of the text. Chrusciel's newest work, "Strata," tries to inhabit this third space, in which closure and non-closure constantly flash into each other. A hybrid text incorporating letters and poems, it investigates issues of identity, mediation, protest, Central European politics, and the Sublime. Strata, which means "loss" in Polish, "accumulations" in English, is Chrusciel's longest work originally written in English, with Polish and other languages interwoven sporadically. Some of the sections printed here first appeared in Pebble Lake Review.
what's the evidence of
Kraina na bosaka. Your first sentence will always be in your native lung. My grandma had a big drawer with sweets which she distributed freely. She farted. Grandmas do not fart. She chased us with loaves of bread soaked in honey. Love is thick and yellow. I would bite her or pinch straight on her buttocks. Love is pinching. The grandpa was an owl. He saw the Holy Mother in the fields. Encounter is a linguistic cousin of country. I prayed every night that she does not appear to me. My nose was too broad for his taste, so he told me to keep it squeezed with my fingers for 15 minutes a day. When he died, I refused to go in for the fear he would criticize me – still. My neighbor died in the window from the lightning. Lightning is a strange apparition. A big moment yellow. In storms I close the windows. My brother liked to throw the cats into the well. For his birthday, he would bring my uncle nettles. Then there was Tigress Mother. She would pretend to be dying when I did not want to eat ham. She would bring the precious stones home. When the moon was full she took me to a neighbor to trim my hair. I was her biggest cat. Our father would stuff us with apples. I ate so many I became the apple of his eye. He would catch mice for me so I could run with them on a leash like a queen of the courtyard. When there were no mice, I would be overcome by strange despairs of boredom. In the face of no ailment, my father would ask me to spit and catch. Instead, I would let the budgies free. To be attached to trinkets, extravagant frills and flounces.
I lose home every timeI send it
We mourn places as well as people. I exercise too much. Keeps me from forming life-long attachments. We would like only for once to get where we are already. I count those sentences in Polish. Lexicons reterritorialize, trespass; cross-code breakdowns. It is strange to see myself from where I was. I’ve grown. I feed the birds and don’t let them fly off. You asked what is the size of my radiance? I cultivate it. Until cross turns into wings. The peacock of Sun wakes me up with the reflexes of light. Sometimes the light will pebble across the floor and tickle my eyes. Places are extensions of the people. What illness springs from the lost place? Horror Vacui. Your first sentence will always be in your native lung. Encounter is a linguistic cousin of country. To know where I am is to know that I am determinately there. Bodily here in relation to an already known there or set of theres. There is no there. And yet there are layers of invisible belonging. I eat a lot of ginger and play with emerald children. What are the true desires in this disguise? I fantasize having a mynah bird. Instead, I would let the budgies free. When there were no mice, I would be overcome by strange despairs of boredom. It got even worse when there was no snow. The Monotony of it all would kill even a sea-horse. In the face of no ailment, my father would ask me to spit and catch. A big moment yellow. I cannot go on. I have other ontological commitments.
is there something down
by the water keeping itself from us?
We are woven of minuscule desires. They swirl in myriad wakes like minnows. If you think how many niches, crevices, rocks they could inhabit. On Valentine you borrowed a tulip from somebody else. I ate it. I only pretended to be crazy. Now I pretend to be normal. Or it’s always rather a decision. You said not even grass has such thin hair. After that kissing was much more fiery. Can our lives still cross through the remote thinking? When you pass by with her, you say it’s cold. Now that you are married. I am just on the other side of the mirror. Horror vacui. Everything preserved under the glass wall. What illness springs from the lost place? Places are extensions of the people. I count everything in Polish. In a certain sense I did commit suicide in order to live. I prefer reason. It’s a sacrifice of the immediate. Swinging causes too much sea-sickness. You cannot take it all. Important is to offer. Sacrifice does not kill but preserve – make it holy. Until wings turn into a cross. However noble, if we do things only on our own, we are the enemies of grace. Odysseus was noble. Nevertheless Dante put him in hell, precisely for that reason. Hell is based on justice and law. Heaven is based on grace. Nobody deserves it.
always drown in good company
I have been secretly storing snow in my apartment so I can ski from one room to another. Kraina na bosaka. If a pinch of salt is burned, it gives off light. What about suffering? I break in order to reveal. Am I a fractal? Repetition is an accretion. Should I call? If we think persistently of somebody, won’t they think of us? Maybe thoughts live in their own worlds? They too travel outside. They pack and unpack. 13 has control over me. It is an unfinished project. Can our lives still cross through the remote thinking? Turn wings until a cross. Should I call? Instead I write. Omnivorous cosmopolitan pages of white. I wish they took off like cranes, beating electric letters in the air. Encounter is a linguistic cousin of country. I eat a lot of ginger and play with emerald children. I exercise too much. Paper cuts deep my skin. I forget and grab it child-like, curious of its smell and usage. The first swimming lessons. My father inspired by new Russian discoveries, would drop me right into deep water. Maybe it was too late – I was 4 or 3. He would pull me out when I was already drowning. Russians invent, fathers adapt. Mother would get into such despairs she wanted to drown herself. With us. However noble, if we do things only on our own, we are the enemies of grace.
if light is both particle and wave
is light schizophrenic?
The lamps are the whales of light. How many orphaned words swarm into this lighthouse. They swirl in myriad wakes like minnows. Think what fancy hats they have now. With forget-me-nots. If you think how many niches, crevices rocks they could inhabit. Encounter means we are made to begin always. Why do I start with an old sentence? Repetition is an innovation. Repetition is an. Crowded loneliness. Sometimes the light will pebble across the floor and tickle my eyes. Dante would put Normal somewhere in Purgatory in his abridged version. Those who enjoy life too much, end up here. Or those who believe in speech acts and think the name will save them from life’s aberrations. I wish chairs would grow wings. Only trees can really scrape the skies. You have the tattoo of light on your face. Your wrinkles glitter into spider webs. This is the circumference of my radiance. We would like only for once to get where we are already. In storms I close the windows. Swinging causes too much sea-sickness. Nobody deserves it. The light tickles me. The whale giggles a cascade. 27 is not merely enough. Or it’s always rather a decision. A schizophrenic swarms her face into the light at midnight. She is a confused sunflower. I counted again in Polish. Wild(d)éornes – Old English place of wild deer. The squirrels fell off the tree –lie crucified on the road.
time hanged itself
on a tree branch
Perhaps the day Sequoia met Christ, they started to sprout, they became self-reflexive giants. Father was in Solidarity. Mother was so afraid she would hide the underground papers in the rabbits’ cage. During Russian I would stand up and say: “Lvov was ours.” The teacher called my parents twice. My father called me little patriot. Now I am in a foreign land. Am I displaced voluntarily? Bodily here in relation to an already known there or set of theres. I live inside a dictionary. Lexicons reterritorialize, trespass, cross-code breakdowns. I eat a lot of ginger and fantasize having a mynah bird. Kraina na bosaka. In the summer the walls were buzzing entities. They were Jacob’s ladders for flies. Our grandma would say that garbage men will come and take us. Whenever we heard a garbage van, we would crawl under the table. Love is pinching. I would practice writing by rewriting the newspapers. Alpacas are fluffy and meek. Whenever my parents were leaving, I would bang my head against the well. Well was my wailing wall. Mountains in snowy yarmulkes are the reversed cathedrals. Snowflakes are tiny dots of waltzing light. As a child I was fascinated with drunks. I would stop and engage in conversation with them. How fascinating to see the loops and whorls of their words. I wish they took off like cranes, beating electric letters in the air. Instead I would let the budgies free. Country precedes encounter. A man has grown his roots into a woman. We would like only for once to get where we are already. Your last sentence will always be in your native lung.