Guardian Angel

I felt his hot breath
On my neck
As I ran up the narrow staircase
Flight after flight

But then he tripped
And fell

As far as Icarus
With a dagger of sunlight
In his back

Today all that remains
Is his body dried in a schoolbook
A giant butterfly
With the twisted face of an injured child

Today the ones who follow me around
Have walkie-talkies instead of hearts
The small change of their humanity
Rattling in their pockets
From what kind of heaven did they fall

— Tomasz Jastrun
(Trans. by Daniel Bourne)

Tomasz Jastrun was an activist in the 1980s Polish labor movement Solidarity. He went into hiding from December 1981 to November 1982 after martial law was declared, but was eventually located by the authorities and arrested. He remained active in the Solidarity movement as an underground poet and editor of samizdat magazines. He lives in Warsaw today.

[Research note: from The Beloit Poetry Journal Vol. 39, No. 3 (Spring 1989): 30.]