The Great Plan B

Justyna Bargielska
Translated from the Polish by Maria Jastrzębska

On my ninth birthday the scoutmastergave me a card with the number of daysI'd already lived. It was an extraordinary numbershimmering and dancing, one of those numbersyou can't savein notches on a wolf's boneor in letters or digits, you can onlyspeak it onto a recordable postcard or carve it in basalt.Do you know what our odds are? Zero.But I've learnt to play for timeas it's the body no less which is left on the battlefield.

Wielki Plan B

Na dziewiąte urodziny drużynowy
dał mi kartkę z liczbą dni,
które do tej pory przeżyłam. To była niezwykła liczba,
migocząca i grająca, jedna z tych liczb
których nie da się zapisać
ani nacięciami na kości wilka
ani literami, ani cyframi, można ją tylko
nagrać jak pocztówkę albo wyryć w bazalcie.

Wiesz jakie mamy szanse? Zerowe.
Ale nauczyłam się, że należy grać na zwłokę,
bo właśnie ciało to jest to, co zostaje na polu bitwy.

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Born in Warsaw in 1977, Justyna Bargielska is one of the most distinctive and original young poets writing in Polish today. She has published eight poetry collections, won the Rainer Maria Rilke poetry competition, and twice won the Gdynia Literary Prize.

Maria Jastrzębska was born in Warsaw, Poland and came to the UK as a child. She is a poet, editor and translator. Recent publications include At the Library of Memories, The Cedars of Walpole Park and a translation (with Ana Jelnikar) of Iztok Osojnik’s Elsewhere

"Justyna Bargielska’s poetry is an art of fierce surprises. Poems that might look small and docile on the page are anything but: they soon reveal themselves to be rigged boxes of devilish wisdom; opening out onto a world that is both familiar and suddenly, unpredictably, luminous, frightening, or both at once."
— Tiffany Atkinson

"These poems by Justyna Bargielska make the word ‘daring’ sound tame. They move at a cruel speed, or as she puts it with characteristically mordant wit, ‘I’m not leaving you, shoes, I’m merely walking ahead.’ In a fairer world talent as prodigal as this would not be allowed. Maria Jastrzębska’s translations are urgent and electric, and effortlessly manage to keep up."
— Jamie McKendrick

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