M I C H A Ł   C H O I Ń S K I


2 poems

CLEANNESS 


“Find water. Cool off.

Think about what happened.”—

we felt it was not 

about what the three of us did,

but how we failed 

to predict the consequences.

We were told to apologise, 

and we did, 

till our mouths went dry.

“And stay away from each other!”—

to that, we said nothing.

The summer heat rippled.

 “Never again,” we each whispered

with whatever saliva was left.

And as we walked away,

the guilt spread up our backs,

like ivy, branching 

all the way to our hippocampi.

THE HIGHEST TIDE 


His wide, hairy back 

was covered with freckles—

all visible under a mesh tank top.

“We’ll need a sharper knife here!”

I pretended not to understand 

it was an imperative.

“Will you?” Now he turned his head 

right back at me.

A drop of sweat was hanging 

from the tip of his nose.

He couldn’t wipe it off—

his hands were all messy.

“I wish I were different,” I thought,

approaching where he sat, 

passing him the leather sleeve.

He knew I wouldn’t resist

the temptation to see his work.

And when I looked, 

I realized why he had told me

we’re all the same.

Title

Michał Choiński teaches literature at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Poland. He has written two books on the history of American literature: Rhetoric of the Revival (V&R, 2016) and Southern Hyperboles (Louisiana State University Press, 2020). His prize-winning pamphlet, Gifts Without Wrapping, came out with the Hedgehog Press in 2019. Choiński’s poetry has been published in journals in Canada and in the US. In 2022, he’ll be a Fulbright Fellow at Yale University, writing his next book.