Military Exercises

Imagine for a moment that I live
right here, was born here, that my parents always
have had a shop here, and on Boulevard
du Temple there’s a bistro with a nice

young waitress—I’ll be there. Imagine that
there’s no such thing as Eastern Europe, no
cellars for hiding neighbors, no transports,
no round-ups, never any dreams of going

from house to house—for a moment suppose
it looks like this: a cat stretches its neck
in sunlight on a porch, a secret game
of chess unfolds between the waitress and

that guy. He tracks her moves, she brings him coffee,
as if by chance her hip jostles the board.

— Tomasz Różycki
(Trans. by Mira Rosenthal)

Polish poet Tomasz Różycki grew up in Opole, Silesia, in southwestern Poland. When Silesia was awarded to Poland after World War II, an estimated 4 million citizens of German descent were expelled from the region. Silesia was resettled by Poles, including Różycki’s family, who were forced out of eastern cities such as Lviv (present-day Ukraine) during the post-war re-drawing of European boundaries.