Marcin Świetlicki, “Photograph”

for pierozek: happy birthday

Photograph (from polishwriting)
Marcin Świetlicki (trans. Elżbieta Wójcik-Leese)

In the corner of the street an apparition – as if
a small fraction of blizzard – as if
miseries went astray – went searching for someone
I opened the window – and so it remains
in the corner of the street a still flurry
me leaning forward and anticipating
and the harsh features of a winter sun


Perhaps we see ourselves in photographs: hence our attachment. But that self is abstracted. It is also certainly narrated in this photograph. The “apparition” is as a “blizzard,” as “miseries.” But it is not merely wandering, but searching. There may be a building in the picture with an open window and a figure (our speaker imagining himself?) leaning out of it searching for that “apparition.” What if the apparition isn’t just some blurry figure actually in the scene, but a product of a photo gone bad itself? Maybe the light was at the wrong angle; maybe this was taken with a Holga.

No matter: the speaker who is leaning out the window is looking at that “still flurry” which remains. It could be the case no one was in a photo of any sort or that the speaker saw a photo and then literally replicated the scene. Looking into the distance, lots of things get blurred. “Leaning forward,” “anticipating,” “harsh:” we take mental photos of our struggling with adversity even when that adversity does not exist yet, even when we know winter implies spring. This was never just a photo of a street in a blizzard.


  1. what i find most interesting is the image of a flickering status quo. looking at the apparition makes it both stay alive AND not move further towards the poet.

    hm. that IS a good photographic image, isn’t it? it is fixed on paper/screen and yet it is alive.

  2. I find this poem moving even if I don’t understand it entirely, I reminds me of dreams I have had, but the poet takes the dream into cool reality like a snapshot. What more dreamlike than seeing the apparition reduced to the fraction of a blizzard and then opening the window and seeing the flurry again-
    The ‘fraction of a blizzard’ associated with ‘miseries went astray” is effetive. So is the metaphysical tact of ‘as if’ (at the back of my mind I hear rhe echo of ‘as if dreams could come true or reveal their secret).
    Musically the poem is divided into two parts, the second a kind of recapitulation with ‘flurry’ taking the place of the blizzard. Searching for someone is an isolated phrase, the searching is prolonged in ‘leaning forward’ and ‘anticipating’ to which the only answer is ‘the harsh features of a winter sun.’ This closes the poem more effectively than a window could, but makes the blizzard, the flurry and the searching all the more vivid.
    The poem is the snapshot of a dream rather than of a person at the window.

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