Well, I am not a poet, but I have a lot of respect for that one, so I opened the file and had a look. The poem was there, so I tried to lift it out of the article, like a skeleton from a fish.
When I got it out, I sent my poem to the poet. He said it was vivid and painful and matters, so I'm posting it here. You'll recognize some of it from a blog post.
The poem matters because the West has a blank spot in its memory when it comes to the Polish experience of the Second World War. Poland was the wounded soldier whose buddies left him behind enemy lines. We don't like to remember that the Allies did that; it tarnishes our shiny stories of heroism and grandeur and triumph over a totalitarian nightmare. That our forgotten war buddy suffered another one...Well... Hiroshima seems so much more important. And perhaps the violence of victory hurts us less that the acknowledgment that the biggest winner was Stalin.
To add insult to injury, some people in the West speak as though the Poles were at all responsible to what happened to the Jews in Poland once the Nazis were in charge. The name for this is "blood libel", and I suspect it is mixed up with fear and resentment of Poland's Catholicism. It is definitely mixed up with ignorance of Polish history and of how Poles existed as a people "without a country" for centuries.
But here is the blank verse poem that was once a column:
English is the lingua franca of the young of Europe;
perhaps they forget it is understood by older people, too.
Or so I thought as Marta and I walked along the Motława River
one evening behind a young foreign tourist determined
to impress upon the young man to her right
how sexually liberated she was.
Her voice was shrill; it carried.
“I don’t believe in marriage,” she bragged.
“People ask me how you can be 22 and not married, but I don’t need
marriage for sex. I have boyfriends.”
The young man, who seemed more interested
in the silent girl to his right,
asked the loud girl
in quieter tones
what she believed in.
“I believe in freedom,” she snapped and
I thought, “Oh, honey.”
Gdańsk is a city of memorials to freedom,
to Polish freedom lost
and to Polish freedom won.
There is the memorial at Westerplatte
where the German Navy opened fire
and at the Polish Post Office where
at that very hour
the SS also attacked.
There is the Gdańsk shipyard
where the Solidarity movement was born
and St. Bridget's Church
where tortured steel shows how its chaplain died.
Every child in Canada is taught that
six million Jews were killed
between Hitler's rise to power and the end of the Second World War.
But although we may be told that
three million of those Jews came from Poland
and that Auschwitz was in Poland
we are not usually told that
three million Poles
were killed alongside the Jews
and that the Nazis' ultimate plan for the Poles
was to make them slaves.
To work in the fields
and in factories
and down mines
and as domestic help.
And this is why
and post-secondary studies
were banned for Poles
in Occupied Poland.
were rounded up and shot.
since the Soviets were in cahoots with the Nazis
at the start of the war
22,000 Polish officers,
basically, the aristocracy,
most infamously but not only in Katyn Forest.
Officers, aristocrats and professors:
not only were they lousy slave material,
they were proof that the Poles had
a culture of their own,
an inconvenient truth
troublesome to both Moscow and Berlin.
That P on the shirt worn by St. Maximilian Kolbe in the icons
does not stand for "Political"
--that's the red triangle--
It stands for "Pole".
The Nazis did not wish to wipe out all the Poles;
they just wanted their
beautiful and strategic country
and to use the Poles
(as mentioned above)
to till it
and mine it
and serve the German settlers the Nazis would send out there
once the war was won.
However, the Nazis did want to exterminate all the
even simple peasants
who would hide Jewish neighbours out of kindness,
so when a Pole was caught hiding a Jew,
the Pole and his or her entire family were
But the Poles were not enslaved long-term
because the Nazis were defeated and
Occupied Poland was liberated by the Soviet Union
albeit in the same way the Soviet Union generally liberated countries:
with strings attached.
Poland was run by a Communist Polish criminal gang
controlled by the Soviet Union until 1990,
when the gang ceased to be either
Communist or controlled by the Soviet Union
although, depending upon whom you talk to,
it might still be quite criminal.
History lies heavily on the city of Gdańsk,
and it was beginning to lie heavily on
By the time I got to the twisted sculpture
commemorating murdered Father Popiełuszko,
I was ready to throw myself
down on the floor of Swiętej Brygidy and weep.
And this is why I was so aggrieved
the next evening
at the young lady who called her sex life
Freedom, I wanted to tell her,
is not taking off your clothes and having sex with any guy
just because you want to.
Women have almost always been able to do that;
it’s talk about it afterwards that got you into trouble,
and not usually with the police.
Sure, people might call you names,
but that's not like not being allowed to go to high school
because you're a Pole, is it?
It's not like shutting the curtains on May Day because
if your child looks out the window at the tanks rolling past,
the police will come upstairs and beat up your husband.
But of course I didn’t say anything.
Canadians don’t do that; it’s rude.
Instead I thought about my friend beside me
who, when she was a little girl,
stood at the gates of the shipyard with her father.
Marta didn’t say anything either.
I think she was praying.