Edward Stachura

Edward Stachura: Prose

Letters to Olga

So much pain. So much pain, which is so deep, too deep to be found in these words. Yes, for they too are against me at this moment, everything is against me, even words, which have always resisted me, but enticingly, seductively, for more caress, and now even they are against me, for I can't find those that would have been an immaculately reflective mirror, hence the pain added on to that one too deep.

Maybe in you there is pain, too, but what is that pain, what? Compared to my bottomless pain, what is every other pain? Curse on that moment when I beheld you: your eyes: so much tenderness in your eyes, tenderness I had always missed, that's why I killed all of that, all that I loved so, and I left all of that, for there was no tenderness in them for me. And I wandered on to the land of Nod, east of Eden, and I wandered a thousand days, and a thousand nights, and I saw you in that accursed blessed moment.

And I had to see you, for I knew I would find what I was searching, what I desired with my soul and body, with every breath, every bend of the wrist and of the knees on the roads and the streets, gathering crumbs, lots of crumbs, but that was not it, that was not the sea that I knew should spread somewhere, not far, in it I will freeze, soon enough, I'll burn down, and that's the way it is, for I knew that I would find what I was searching—you, Olga, I had to see some time.

Oh, yes. These are words, these are words that paper won't accept. Paper can't accept these ardent words of mine. It is not white enough—this clean, white paper—it's dirty for my pure white letters. And I see that. No one else! No one else?

April 1

I was writing this bird when Jurek came into the room and said: "Sted, Olga came to see you." At the first moment, I remember beautifully, I started to melt like ice, I didn't want to scream from joy at all, but I was melting, the sunness spread all over me, like the sun entering a block of ice, its rays good, warm. I said: "Where is she?" "On the stairs"—he answered. I walked out to the staircase and suddenly I heard laughter behind me, as if from afar, for I was all lost, my eyes fixed on you, but there was no sun, no one to dazzle me, only laughter I heard from behind and Jurek's words: "I played a good one on you. Today is April first." And that was like a punch between the eyes, after which you do not pass out but you come to yourself in most pain.

I came up to the window and I didn't even hit Jurek, I didn't even say anything only came up to the window and I wanted to cry. I wanted to cry, but even they—tears—were against me: like little foxes hiding in their burrow they were afraid to look out, although the hunter has long been gone, although I have long been gone, I haven't been there for so long, and I was standing by the window and I wanted to cry.

For all my past old wounds were now open, those I had thought scarred over, and once more I was all being wounded by all that which had already wounded me once, and after that my wounds scarred for a long time, for it's hard for me to forgive those who hurt me, so it all took a long time to heal, only to open again at this moment, and I was all being wounded once more.

And I was all a smoking scrap, by the window, behind which there was the sky, long time not seen in blue, and the sun, different, but the same which always-unchangeable-eternal appears after winter, and which also appears after black clouds float away, and is even more lovelike. Maybe I wasn't looking for you?

Have I hurt you somehow? Tell me!

April 4

I'm writing to you more, for fate or accident, which I thought was always on my side, didn't let me see you, although I was at your place yesterday, on Saturday, for today is Sunday and today I was also at your place.

But first yesterday. I was at your place at seven in the evening. I struggled so much with myself: to go, not to go—and I don't know what won: the good or the bad, although the fight was decided, for I went to your place. I climbed up the stairs and paused by the door. For a moment I thought about what I should say when you show in the door, but I couldn't do anything anymore. And I knocked on the door, trusting timidly that you will see everything in my eyes. In the same way, I think, I would throw myself into water, trusting that it will read everything and it won't let me fight for my life, which I don't want, and then it won't let me wash off on the shore, an easy pray. Instead, that it keep me in itself.

And so I put my trust in you, that you will read everything in my eyes, as if I put my trust in the water, throwing myself into it. That's how I threw myself into you, not knowing what I would say when you show in the door. But you didn't show. I climbed back down and nothing touched me. I took the tram to the "Shelter," there I sat at the bar and everything in me cried. And around me all others were drinking and dancing, and yelling, and I was sitting at the bar. I was sitting and timidly, very timidly I was waiting, that you will come imperceptibly, put your hand on my shoulder and say "Edward," as nobody else can say it, and you may not know this but each time you said "Edward" you enclosed me in you in the most loving way and I didn't want to wander any more, nowhere and never, only to disappear in you like that softly, gently. But nobody touched me, and nobody said anything to me, although some did say some things to me, but nobody spoke to me, and I'm not surprised, for I was not there. I sat so timidly, I, who earlier had all the talents and everything confirmed it in me. But I didn't feel others laughed at me, nor did I find myself funny, and I think that it was not only sad, for it was too incomprehensible.

Then I got up and left. I went to the canal by which we were still four days ago. Why did the four days pass? Just as I never lie, I would give four hundred other days to erase those four. For us to stand by the canal like four days ago: you by me, I by you. Where are you? I looked at the water, which flowed close by me, six feet below me flowed the water and it only increased my deep pain and my deep anger. Why did the four days pass?

And so I stood, looking at the water, but nothing touched me. And I don't know what I would have done, if something had touched me, then, when I looked at the water, which was close, just by, and which even already pulled me like a magnet.

I crossed the foot bridge, you know, and jumped into a tram, and again, very, very timidly, I asked God or somebody else that you be home and that I can see you. I got there, climbed up the stairs and timidly knocked on the door, for there was nothing left of me by then but a tiny bit of timidity. I knocked harder. I knocked still for quite a while, once harder, once softer, but nobody answered. I went back to the street and decided to wait. Do you know what every tram stopping in front of your house was to me? You'll come in this one. No. The next one. So many of them came and each tram was for me the greatest hope, and arrival time between one and the other—painful waiting, but always hopeful. Then I told myself that if you come in this one or one of the next three, I will not even come up to you.

Good God, if she comes in this one, I will only look at her and I'll go right away, I will not let her see me. Only let her come in this one. I think that when I was in the tram, when I went to your place for the second time, I didn't want anything more but to see you, although at that time nothing yet had touched me, nor did later. I wasn't jealous and I shouldn't start this, but I want to tell you everything, as much as I can. I wasn't jealous at all. That much I can't do. I can much more, for I even told myself, seeing a tram approaching from afar, that if you come in it, then there may be someone with you, another guy. And when you didn't come, then after a while, as I saw another tram coming, I allowed that the other kissed you. Maybe you can't comprehend this, but later I even wanted that somebody else get out with you, that he kiss you, that I see it, and that a lightning finally strike me. So that I become clean.

It was late, when I finally won the struggle and started walking toward the city. No, I was not yet defeated, for I still hoped, a little bit, that I will meet you also returning on foot, after waiting in vain for a tram, of which there are fewer at nighttime than at daytime. I walked for a very long time and on the way I was passed by two more trams, in which I tried to find you, but they passed very quickly and I didn't have enough time to see everything in them, and they were almost empty.

It must have been late when I reached Oporow. It could have been two, three, four in the morning, I don't know, there were no stars and I didn't feel at all like knowing what time it can be. I know that I walked for a very long time, and I thought that never in my life had I walked so long, although many times I walked ten times as long for sure. Once, I remember, I walked a whole night and half a day in this wilderness in Pomerania. I was running away from this gang who probably wanted to kill me, but never mind. I was running away for a long time, longer than yesterday, five times, and when I finally found a haystack, I lay under it, for I couldn't any further and they probably didn't chase me that far. I woke up in the middle of the night, as I judged by the stars, I was shivering from cold, although it was still summer, but nights are usually cold and bad. I climbed to the top of the haystack, formed a hollow in the hay and hid in it. I didn't feel like sleeping any more, and I looked at the stars. I was a little hungry, but mostly I was thinking. I always think a lot, but then I thought even more. But more than anything I longed. I think, after you, for you may not know anything or know a little. I longed boundlessly, boundlessly and I think that somebody far there, under the same sky, also had to long after me, and if he had slept, then he must have woken up, for it is not possible that I didn't hit somebody right in the heart in the middle of that night, in the heart of that night. I also think that I longed for a woman, and often I long a boy who looks like me. But then I longed a woman and a son under her surface—a little boy who looked like me. And so somebody also had to long for me in that middle of the night, for it is not possible. But then I didn't think about it. I remember I was overcome with such powerful tenderness that it caused pain in my stomach and from time to time I had a feeling that I was going to faint. I know for sure that the pain in my stomach, very distinct, was not from hunger. Certainly not. Tenderness embraced me like water or the sun or the wind. Boundlessly.

In the same way now from time to time I feel pain inside, although I had quite enough to eat. I'm getting more and more convinced, as I had thought for a long time, that the soul and the body are inseparable and when the soul is sad, the body is sad as well. Of course, I feel inside all my deftness and agility, the talents I got from nature, but what's the use of them at this moment? What's the use? If I was assaulted yesterday by a few or even by one, I would not have defended myself at all. I would have given in to the blows of the fist or foot and maybe a little with pleasure. Maybe you can't comprehend this, but it could have been soothing for me to be kicked in my back and my teeth.

I finally came to the place of this rat, with whom I'm staying, but it didn't even make me happy that I would not see his false, deceitful mug, for it was night and he had been asleep for a while, so I wouldn't see him. I opened the door, for I have my own key, and I walked as quietly as I could into what will be my room for another week or so. I took off my coat and sat down to do some kind of writing, trusting timidly that it will bring me consolation, some relief. Before, it was always different, and sitting down to write I was always certain that it will be a great torment for me, but also joy—at least as great. But now it is different. I have never been like that. I made some tea, sat down on a stool, lit up a cigarette and smoking I raised my head from the paper, trying not to think for a while, knowing that this brief not-thinking before I write is good for me. But I couldn't not-think, although maybe I didn't even think about anything, but I was broken. I was not whole. I was not focused. Something had broken off of me and somewhere there it was wounding its wings: on the canal, in the "Shelter," in your kitchen, in the hallway, in the room. And it wandered, that something of mine, and it had to bleed, for I could feel it very distinctly. So how could I write?

And so unable to write, and to sleep, I knew, even less, I thought about a bath, which has always been for me something wonderful. In every city in which I found myself, I would first inquire about the public bath: where it is. In winter especially the bath was my refuge, but never mind. And so last night, or rather this morning, unable to write, and to sleep, I knew, even less, I thought about a wonderful bath. I turned the faucet, lit up the gas and I hang up a rag on the faucet for the water to flow down quietly. Waiting for the tub to fill, I went to the room—mine for a few more days. I opened the window widely to the night and I stood by the window and by the night, for it was not in me, the night was not in me, despite everything. It will never be. But the pain was in me, from time to time it seized me there inside, for everything squirmed in there unchanged and I couldn't even imagine that anything could change, that a soothing could take place, although there was no night in me, and there never will be. I stood like that, looking into the night, and maybe I was so tired that I didn't think about anything anymore. I was just looking like that.

After a while I recovered my senses and went to the bathroom. There was enough water already, so I got undressed and got into the tub, sinking into the water very slowly, for the water was quite hot, and I felt that if I plunged in right away, something could snap in me. I lay in the tub, moving my legs from time to time, for then the water turned warmer. I splashed quietly and it was good, quite good more or less, and when a few times I was overcome with a great fatigue: complete exhaustion, of muscles and head, then I would quickly turn on the faucet with the cold water and put my head in there fast, to not let it go too far away. I was being very quiet, for that rat was sleeping there behind the wall, I didn't want to wake him up, for once awake he could say something to me, not to admonish me, for I had gained his respect, I didn't want him to admire me, but respect was important to me; so he could say something to me, that rat, ask for a cigarette, or ask where I'd been, whatever, for then I would see him and I just don't know if I wouldn't then have a desire to choke him, the rat. So I was being possibly quiet, for I preferred not to wake him up, not to see him at that moment, for I could do something bad to him, although for me, I suspect, it would have been something good, and for the whole race of the noble as well, and even for humanism something not too bad. So I took a quiet bath, went out of the bathroom, and lay down quietly, and I didn't feel anything anymore, I don't remember anything anymore, other than my head wandering, my head wandering.

It's somewhere around midnight probably, I don't know, so maybe it is already April 5. Well, let it be April 4. I woke up for the first time close to noon, as I judged by the sun piercing the thin cretonne window curtains, and by the noise of the pre-lunch period, and also by the smell of that sweet period, but never mind. I woke up for the first time from a dream, which from hell rather than from the mountains. I don't remember the beginning of the dream and how we got to the mountains, in which we were, in a valley at the foot of a hill, in very tall grass, for I could only see your head—gray hair. Your hair was completely white. My God. You were in front of me, in the grasses, some twenty steps from me, and you walked slowly, along the slope. I walked after you, twenty steps behind you, not even trying to catch up with you, as if I knew that I will never be able to do that, although you walked slowly, holding your head straight, your hair quite gray, my God. Then you turned around and I saw your face young, even younger, I could see very well for twenty steps, maybe fifteen, very well for my eyes weak, troubled. "What have I done to you?"—you said.

Oh, no. No. Then I woke up at once right away, for I heard a moan, which came out of my throat, inexpressibly heavy, like a moan from the underground of somebody crushed under all the mountains of the world. How heavy it was. How it emerged from the throat, that moan of hell, born still in the dream, but dying already in the waking world; that moan lasting only a short moment, but how that short moment lingered, I felt, I heard clearly each second, each infinity in that short moment, which was a bridge between the dream and the waking world, and so it joined everything, for what is everything, where is everything, if not between one and the other. It was then that I woke up, for I had to make some superhuman move, I wanted to lift something excessive, break something, cross the impossibility, the twenty steps, maybe fifteen, and then I drew that moan almost from beyond the world. Your white hair, my God.

Where are you, Olga? Where are you? Come. We will lie down in the very tall grasses, no one will see us, the sky only and the bird crossing the sky, no one will hurt us, the sun will touch us, and I will lightly touch your hair, your white sunny hair beautiful. Where are you? Come. Come, Little Girl.

And then I must have fallen asleep again, in my high calling to you, to the grasses, to the meadows in the valley, to the sky, the sun, the bird above us, to you, to the grasses, where there is room to rest, to the grasses, from where you can only to the top, to you my calling: "Come, Olga, come, Little Girl," to the dream with you, one dream, eternal, never-ending.

But I woke up soon after that, the second time, I slept maybe for fifteen minutes, for twenty minutes I squirmed, burned, damn words, what are these words, for twenty minutes I burned and I woke up for the second time, and I'm not surprised, for how can you stand it in the fire for longer? twenty minutes in the fire, then probably nothing else is left, not even a tiny feather from a prayer, only the smell around and impenetrable smoke, and a handful of ash, which has to be found, has to be recovered, for it is not at all a relic, but a fertilizer: in it again ripening, again growing, again calling: "Come, Olga, come, Little Girl."

I died and was resurrected like that many times, ten times, twenty times maybe, like those twenty steps of distance from you. Then I jumped out of bed in the last effort of my will, for maybe I was afraid that a little more and I will not be resurrected from my last dying, which I don't want to be the last, let it be the last but one, but the last dying I want to celebrate with you. So I jumped out in the last but one effort of my will, out of this hell rather than bed, and I went to the bathroom, to cold water for my forehead, eyes, shoulders and neck. I couldn't walk away from the faucet, it was so alluring: this water cold and perfectly healing. One more splash, one more, one more. Maybe twenty times I splashed like that with the wonderful water onto the firesite, which was starting to wake up, regenerate, blood in the bloodstream a living circulation. It was very pleasant and I had to appreciate it in spite of everything.

Then I went to the room and started to exercise my hands, legs and everything, for I believed still that if the body is supple, the spirit is supple as well. Behind the window there was Sunday, the afternoon and the sun, and many people came out on the sports-field although there was no game, but it was warm, April, trees were already turning green, and mothers in nicer dresses rocked their babies in the strollers, and their husbands strolled by their sides, more stiff, but also with some dignity, and acquaintances greeted each other with the nod of the head, and women leaned over other strollers, and then over dresses, and the sun tickled all that and the Sunday afternoon April.

By the window I inhaled deeply this sun and this Sunday April sight, which could have been soothing, if not for all the other people, who were not to blame at all, although who knows, and they caused my hatred, hatred without jealousy, for let them have the greatest happiness, I wish them that heartily from my heart, so my hatred must be very ancient, but whatever it is, can it be soothing, can it really?

But I thought to myself that it would be good to walk a little in the cemetery. There is a cemetery nearby. Close. There even more freshness of the green. The dead, of course, can't see anything, and there are so many dead there, then the spring growth there must be like shining stars. I also thought that it is quiet there and among the dead you can feel half-dead, if you want that very much, and then all my hatred will be half-hatred, all my pain will be half the pain, then maybe it will be better by a half.

I was thinking all that as if something could exist for me outside of you: spring growth? stars? half? And I almost didn't struggle, didn't resist, for what kind of competition is that for you: the green? silence in the cemetery? the dead? I dressed quickly and went to the tram stop, to go to your place. I got there, climbed up the stairs, knocked, once more lightly, then with my fist, with my fist again, with my leg, and nothing. And then it touched me. That you had done something to yourself.

When I was very young, I remember, I had in my dream the ability to float in the air. It was enough to move my arms with the movement of birds' wings and I would rise into the air. It was a very pleasant sensation and today I can't compare it with anything, although I would certainly guess it, if it could come back. Oh, my king, my king. Great is Nansen Amundsen Tcheluskin. The rats are multiplying, oh king. So many rats, you flutist. Hail thee. Welcome thee. Ave flutist. Flanders, Normandy, Provence, Macedon. Ah, you poor boy, you lost boy, sown between thistles, hooks; degenerate seed, shameful. Ave Maria. Ave flutist. Lead out this rotting, this carcass, these federations, lead out behind the city gates, behind the walls, behind the field of vision, to the Tarpeian rock, lose it in the abyss, let it get lost; but spare the clean ones, the noble ones. Oh, my king, my king. Jerusalem Babylon Hosanna. When I was very little, I remember, I could rise into the air, into the lightest air, into hosannas: "the wings theopais, oh wings." God save. Oh, my king, my king. The woods, my king. The birds. These people are immortal. Pine needles on the ground, my king. Sparrow's tail. Sparrow's little feather. Grass. Blade of grass. These people are academics. Apple of the eye, my king. This. Ants, my king. Bee queens. The simple hardworking folk. These people are immortal. Forget the federations critical appointed, lingering armchair hansas of those rats merchants, anecdote from lips to lips, hand washing hand. God kill. Kill. Hand washing hand. Oh, my king, my king. I moved my arms like wings and I rose into the air, into the lightest air. Like a dolphin I swam over valleys and vineyards. Oh, my king, my king. How is it? How is it all? Why is it like that, oh gods? How pleasant was the sensation, my king. Like a dolphin I swam over valleys, over grapes. It was enough to only move my arms, with the movement of birds' wings, and right away I stepped into the sky. Oh, my king, my king.

April 6

I can't describe to you the Sunday evening, and all of Monday, and all of Tuesday, for now it's Tuesday evening and I am at your place, and Rena—your friend and your roommate—told me that you left already on Wednesday (and so right after that) and that she was to tell me that you had left, if I came.

A moment ago I walked into your house with this boyfriend of Rena whom I met in the tram, going to you. And he told me also that you had left and that Rena had left, and that both of you were gone, there was nobody when I visited your house timidly, persistently, timidly.

So when he told me that and when Rena repeated it to me, so nothing had happened to you, I was overcome with such boundless joy, but very brief, for suddenly I thought that if I had you by my side right now, I would kiss your feet from happiness, and then I would get up and I would hit you. I would hit you like that.

It hurts again. It's starting again. So broad. I often had something like that with music listening, and especially with singing with choruses from far back. Yes, certainly then something similar to this now. Not as much maybe, but similar. Especially when the choruses entered the music or a person's singing. They grew out so slowly from behind or from the sides softly, and then in me something was also spreading, something was rising and leaning like grass or ryefields, when the wind. Yes, the wind. The wind rose up in my middle, with music listening and with choruses most of all. But why did it hurt, that wind? Why does it hurt, that broad wind, for it hurts me so broad. As if great choruses and countless hosts surrounded me and were also above the circle of my head and with this painful bottomless singing stretched my heart into all the radiant sides of the world.

I'm sitting and writing, but what are these words? What are these words? I know these are not words-immaculate-showing-mirrors, I know, and I know that I can never spread it all out to you, not even with mirrors, even with the very crying boundless or the killing of oneself into the river or from the window of a high building to the pavement my body flying, and then the body neither mine nor yours any more, but more yours than mine. And I'm not afraid of it so much, no, for I would have this tragic ability for the deed, for I would cast everything away, everything that wouldn't tell me to kill myself, that would tangle up in my head sensible and in my legs loving so much every step on every single soil, good or bad. I would be able that greatest unjust talent. But I know that even after that it wouldn't have been all that I wanted to offer you, that I wanted to spread at your feet. For I have a lot too much of it. Even for your bottomless absorption. For that is how I am built, that when I fall in love with something, that when I fall in love with Olga, my crying for Olga is not all my love, nor is my killing for Olga, nor certainly is my writing for Olga. But I'm writing to you, I'm writing to you, for maybe somewhere, in some places of my writing or between those places, you will be able to find a jewel, more precious maybe even than the jewel-crying or the jewel-killing. Although I am an ordinary man, simple and I'm proud of it, although sometimes I think that I must be of the gods. And I'll tell you that I go through such thoughts transformations also during this writing: in some places or between some places I think that I am a small, poor, wretched man, and in other places I think that I am not so worthless after all, and in other places yet I think I must be of the gods.

Rena says that you are coming back tomorrow, that I could wait till tomorrow after all. For I told her I'm leaving and I wanted to say good-bye to you when I came an hour ago. I didn't say that I was leaving that day, and I didn't have this desire yet, this decision. But if you are coming back tomorrow, then I will leave today after all. I will leave. For too long I've been waiting. For too long I've been wandering and searching: a thousand days and a thousand nights, that's enough. I will not wait another night. That's too much. And it would also be unjust, for you are not, you are not Olga.

So I say to Rena that I could actually wait till tomorrow, but I will leave today. "Then she will be sorry"—Rena says.

Oh, my king, my king.