Bookshelf Poland

Jestem Julią – I am Juliet

Wilanow Park, Warsaw

In honor of International Translation Day (but really, who needs an excuse to share a favorite poem?) here’s one of the first poems I read simultaneously in Polish and English. It’s by Halina Poświatowska, with whom I happen to share an alma mater– a serendipity that I credit to my early sense of connection to the Polish language.

Although educated in the US, Poświatowska later returned to her native Poland, where she died tragically young. She’s buried in her hometown, Częstochowa, which is better known for being a famous Catholic pilgrimage site. It’s top on the list of places in Poland I’ve still never been.

This poem is untitled, but referred to by its first line, “Jestem Julią/I am Juliet”:

I am Juliet
I am 23 years old
I once touched love
it tasted bitter
like a cup of black coffee
it set my heart
my alive organism
set my senses swaying

went away

I am Juliet
on a high balcony
shouting come back
calling come back
bitten lips
with the hue of blood

did not come back

I am Juliet
I am thousand years old
I live —

Jestem Julią
mam lat 23
dotknęłam kiedyś miłości
miała smak gorzki
jak filiżanka ciemnej kawy
rytm serca
mój żywy organizm
rozkołysała zmysły


Jestem Julią
na wysokim balkonie
krzyczę wróć
wołam wróć
przygryzione wargi
barwą krwi

nie wróciła

Jestem Julią
mam lat tysiąc
żyję —

Translation by Marek Lugowski, for the fantastic HalinaFAQ project.

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