from Annihilation

Context N°19

by Piotr Szewc

We are on Listopadowa, the second street crossing Lwowska. In one of the tiny backyards close to the intersection, Mr. Hershe Baum is standing near the house and feeding pigeons perched on his arm. Here they are called Persian butterflies. Isn’t it a beautiful name? In all likelihood they were brought from Persia. But is that certain? We won’t be able to verify it. Data, documents, and credible explanations are unavailable. Supposedly the pigeons can fly for many hours at a height that makes them invisible to the human eye. But since we received this information from a merely casual acquaintance, we cannot vouch for its accuracy. We haven’t been interested in such matters. It is beyond doubt, however, that Mr. Hershe Baum’s pigeons are highly valued by local pigeon breeders. One often sees buyers of his birds. Now, at the peak of the season, the pigeons draw high prices.

A horse-drawn wagon loaded with sacks passes by. It’s only logical to assume it carries grain—a flour mill is located on Listopadowa, and the cart is going in that direction. As our eyes follow the cart, the sun, reflected off a window that someone is opening, blinds us. Soon, through the half-opened window, an extended hand pours the contents of a chamber pot. The whole scene takes only a few seconds. Before we can notice it, the pigeons, scared by the clatter of the wagon, fly off Mr. Hershe Baum’s arm. And the hens cackle loudly when the contents of Kazimiera M’s pot lands on them. It was Kazimiera M who poured what was in the pot out the window. Although it’s warm, Kazimiera M carefully closes the window. For a moment we see her white gown through the windowpane.

Most likely she went to sleep late, and now, after she has emptied the pot, she will want to lie down for at least half-an-hour or so. Sleep is best the morning after a busy night. To keep the sun out, Kazimiera M decides to draw the curtains. Even if we wanted, we couldn’t peek into her apartment. So let’s allow Kazimiera M a well-deserved rest.

Mr. Hershe Baum, who until this minute was standing near the house, shoos away the pigeons clamoring for more gain and ambles into the street. He picks up an apple, one of many scattered in front of the house, and standing outside the opened gate, he brings the apple to his mouth. It has a nice tart taste. With his free hand, he shades his eyes. He contemplates the sun, which has already reached the trees behind the brewery. For the last few days the sun has been unusually bright.

Mr. Hershe Baum calls his wife out of the apartment. Now, shading their eyes, both look at the sun. It takes only a moment.


Translation by Ewa Hryniewicz-Yarbrough

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