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Those Men, So Powerful : by STANISLAW BARANCZAK

February 11, 1990

Those men, so powerful, always shown

somewhat from below by crouching cameramen, who lift

a heavy foot to crush me, no, to climb

the steps of the plane, who raise a hand

to strike me, no, to greet the crowds

obediently waving little flags, men who sign

my death warrant, no, just a trade

agreement which is promptly dried by a servile blotter.

those men so brave, with such upraised foreheads

standing in an open car, who

so courageously visit the battle-line of harvest operations,

step into a furrow as though entering a trench,

those men with hard hands capable of banging

the rostrum and slapping the backs

of people bowed in obeisance who have just this moment been pinned

to their best suits with a medal,


you were so afraid of them,

you were so small

compared to them, who always stood above

you, on steps, rostrums, platforms,

and yet it is enough for just one instant to stop

being afraid, or let's say

begin to be a little less afraid,

to become convinced that they are the ones,

that they are the ones who are afraid the most

From "Selected Poems: The Weight of the Body" (Triquarterly Books/Northwestern University/Another Chicago Press: $8.95; 70 pp.; 0-929968-02-6, cloth, 0-929968-01-8, paper; (312) 491-7945). Baranczak, a critic as well as a poet, is the Alfred Jurzykowski Professor of Polish Language and Literature at Harvard University. See his review, on Page 2 of today's Book Review, of Sasha Sokolov's "Astrophobia." Living in the U.S. only since 1981, Baranczak writes not only about the struggle against tyranny but also, in some of the poems in this collection, about the special fragility of the emigre. 1989, Stanislaw Baranczak. Reprinted by permission of Triquarterly Books.

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