Tell Me What Is, Tadeusz Rozewicz

by Layah, Creative Director

4/2 - Richard Siken Tells Me We'll Never Get Used To It, by Po, EIC
4/3 - William Carlos Williams: This Is Just To Say, by Layah, CD
4/4 - We Are All Writers On the Same Dreadful Typewriter 
as Allen Ginsberg, by Jenny, EE
4/5 - Pablo Neruda and the Quest for Surrender, by Elie, ME
4/6 - Let's Shake the Dust, Anis Mojgani, by Layah, CD
4/11 - Terrence Hayes, Kanye West, and How to Get Through Winter, 
by Elie, ME
4/12 - Sylvia Plath Died Before I Had Time, by Po, EIC 
4/16 - Billy Corgan Blinks With Fists, by Jenny, EE 
4/17 - Andrea Gibson Just Takes Me, by Po, EIC 
4/18 - Famous Like Naomi Shihab Nye, by Po, EIC
4/19 - Tell Me What Is, Tadeusz Rozewicz, by Layah, CD

All I know about Tadeusz Rozewicz is that he’s a survivor.

That and that he writes about what is.

Last summer, on one every-day, I saw an article advertised on my former homepage. How To Live To 100? It was a health topic, it linked to a video, it made me want to cry and scream at the same time in an impulsive toddler-esque tantrum. You mean like, how to tie a tie? How to write a resume? How to make homemade jam? The letters fell away. The slurred sight and blurred words made me blink twice as long.

Let’s talk about living before we start claiming we want to live until 100. What does that mean? Do you know what you mean?

Forget the lateral question.

Do you understand it vertically?

this is a table I said
this is a table
. . .
this is a man
this is a tree this is bread
people eat to live
I kept saying to myself
human life is important
human life has great importance
. . .
man is a great treasure
I repeated stubbornly

-“In the Midst of Life,” Tadeusz Rozewicz (translated by Adam Czerniawski)

I’ve recently come to the realization that I do not understand definitions. What is a novel? What is literature? What is a photograph? What is this hand?

Who gave credence to the dictionary and why do I trust him? Why are the answers circumvented and never fully penetrated; where is the heart and why isn’t it punctured yet?

this is a table.

Are we chanting an anthem, Rozewicz? Of logic, stability, and reason? Are we trying to convince ourselves of what is? Or is this all? Are we it? I’m terrified. Attach me to life. (This Velcro isn’t strong enough, anymore.)

a poet is one who writes verses
and one who does not write verses
. . .
a poet is one who believes
and one who cannot bring himself to believe
. . .
one who has been inclined to fall
and one who raises himself
a poet is one who tries to leave
and one who cannot leave

-“Who is a Poet,” Tadeusz Rozewicz (translated by Adam Czerniawski)

I am so many boths. We are all so many boths. We have too many sides and too many edges to not be anything but contradictory. I am one of many and I am the only one at the same time. And did you know that God is transcendent and imminent at the same time? As am I. As are you. We are infinite.

I sat on the threshold
that old woman who
leads a goat on a string
is needed more
is worth more
than seven wonders of the world

-“In the Midst of Life,” Tadeusz Rozewicz (translated by Adam Czerniawski)

You know something about life. You know something about living that I want to know. Tell me?

The following are empty synonyms:
man and beast
love and hate
friend and foe
darkness and light
. . .
Ideas are mere words:
virtue and crime
truth and lies
beauty and ugliness
courage and cowardice
. . .
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 and light

-“The Survivor”, Tadeusz Rozewicz (translated by Adam Czerniawski)

Ideas are mere words. Perhaps nothing can be defined, because words aren’t enough to do so, because words are insufficient, because words are mere ideas. Perhaps we are, too.

What is this life? What is living? Eating whole grain, drinking moderate amounts wine, reading the newspaper, exercising? Why are you telling me statistics? Why are you telling me to buy a farm and live in the country?

Forget the lateral definition.

Do you understand it vertically?

Sometimes I run my fingers along the wall to remind myself that some things still feel the same.

Please: tell me what a table is.


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LANDFILLS is a grassroots literary, arts and culture online collective based in Chicago. All work is original, except the featured images that accompany text posts (which are blatantly stolen from Complaints should be directed to Po via Twitter.
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