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Four Songs About Not Being There by Norbert Palej

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Published on Jun 29, 2016

Polycoro Chamber Choir
John Wiens, Artistic Director
Soloists: Scott Reimer, Zohreh Gervais, PJ Buchan, Sarah Jo Kirsch

Performed at Crescent Fort Rouge in Winnipeg Manitoba on May 18, 2016.

Four Songs About Not Being There is set to texts by four tragic twentieth-century Polish poets: Władysław Broniewski (imprisoned and repressed by the NKVD), Andrzej Bursa (a rebel writer who died at age 25), Miron Białoszewski (survivor of the Warsaw Uprising of 1944, later ostracized for his homosexuality), and Tadeusz Borowski (prisoner of several Nazi labor camps including Auschwitz). Palej selected poems that address the ideas of loss or lack. Broniewski’s “Cisza” (Silence) is a dialogue with the ominous absence of sound, Bursa’s “Śmierć Mamusi” (Mommy’s death) a shocking confrontation with utter aloneness, Białoszewski’s “Ach, gdyby, gdyby nawet piec zabrali...” (Oh, even, even if they took the stove) a darkly humorous contemplation on the gap left behind by the disappearance of something deeply familiar, and Broniewski’s “Wołanie Marii” (Calling for Mary) a scream of longing for a missing beloved person whose fate is unknown.

Translation:
Tell me, what is your name?
- Silence.
- Please repeat because I couldn't hear?
- Silence.
- Is that you, walking on dry leaves in the spring?
is that you the lark sings of when the grasses grow?
- I am silence, be quiet proud one.
. - I will take you to the casket.

(Dripping noises)
.....- mommy give me some bread with cheese
.....- mommy is not there
nobody will give you bread with cheese

I have a stove
Similar to an triumphal arc!

They are taking my stove
Similar to a triumphal arc!!

Give me back the stove
Similar to a triumphal arc!!!

They took it.
All that's left behind is a
grey naked cavity
grey naked cavity.

And that's all I need:
grey naked cavity
grey-na-ked-ca-vi-ty
greynakedcavity

Mary who is near,
Mary who is alive,
anywhere you are
I send birds,
fleeting leaves
are songs.
Mary, at night I repeat
your name,
Mary,
Mary,
I bend over the night
as if it is a face,
but I can't recall the face.
Mary,
Mary,
Here I am calling you
with an ancient song like the sound of a harp,
Mary with eyes of an Angel!
Mary who is alive!
Mary who is dead!

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