Leo Yankevich

Leo Yankevich Poems

(after the German of Rainer Maria Rilke)

We have no knowledge of his ancient brow
where pippins ripen. Yet his torso gleams,

You hear the sound of carols from afar.
Bright bulbs and tinsel, cinnamon and cloves.
Beyond a hill of snow you see a star.

Without the moon or stars to guide his sight,
without a glint from shanties down below,
he rested on the foggy hill that night,
and begged the heavens for a tiny glow.

Yes, pretty soon now they’ll be at your door.
They’ve orders and a warrant after all.
It doesn’t matter. You’ll be on the floor,
your wife and children having watched you fall.

Here is a river with a little boat
moored beside its bank. The boat's the colour
of oranges in the south of Greece, all bloody
and ripe with sweetness, while the bank's the colour

Milk curdles in her jar,
mould forms on her black bread.
She’s come so very far,
but her blue Polish eyes

Intensities of pain—
of those once persecuted
and those once executed.

(after the German of Georg Trakl)

The brown village. A darkness often treads
Along the walls that stand in autumn. Mock-

I rise at the break of dawn,
still dreaming, half awake,
wondering whether I’m gone;
but, the sun on the lake,

The father looks up to the sky or ceiling
(beyond the grey scale of the photograph)
with his son wrapped inside his cradling arms.
An orderly obscures the boy’s midsection,

A sudden brightness. Call it day.
Rooks above the cathedral, and clouds

Though many years have passed, and loves, I swear
I can still smell the soaps this one would use.
I can still see the mole on her left thigh,
black eden lace against her northern skin.

When we entered the burning city
charred corpses greeted us.
A child’s hand dangled from a scorched tree
and the twisted wreckage of a bus

Perhaps there’s mercy in the skies,
although the Spaniards have seen none.
The tears of horror in their eyes
reflect the fury of the sun

After a long night of interrogation,
followed by a thirty-minute trial,
there was no doubt about it: I was guilty.

Malachite of tower and dome,
clatter of sabots, creaks of wheels,
neighs of horses headed home
from a market where smoked eels

They come, come faithfully to behold him,
three kings and their harems after three nights
of fasting, coated in an afterlife
of sweet confection. But the star is dim


I felt it in her body loves ago.
Call it what you will: her psyche, soul,
essence, the ghost I never got to know
that haunts me down my later years. A fool,

At midnight, just beneath the sunken moon,
there is a glade, where leaf on fallen leaf
lie underneath her long and bony arms.
There, naked, she awaits her time to come.

Leo Yankevich Biography

an American poet and the editor of The New Formalist. Born into a Roman Catholic family of Irish-Polish descent, he grew up and attended high school in Farrell, Pennsylvania, a small steel town in western Pennsylvania. He then studied History and Polish Studies at Alliance College, Cambridge Springs, Pennsylvania, receiving a BA in 1984. Later that year he travelled to Poland on a fellowship from the Kosciuszko Foundation to attend Kraków's Jagiellonian University. After the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989, he decided to settle in Poland. He lives in Gliwice, Poland. Yankevich writes poems in both traditional metre and in syllabics, and only occasionally in free verse. He is a prolific translator, having rendered into English poems by Mikhail Lermontov, Georg Trakl, Rainer Maria Rilke, Stanislaw Grochowiak, Czeslaw Milosz, Alexander Blok, Leopold Staff, Nikolay Gumilev, Boleslaw Lesmian, and many others. He has a large Internet presence with work published in scores of online publications, ranging from The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette to Poets Against War.)

The Best Poem Of Leo Yankevich

Apollo’s Archaic Torso

(after the German of Rainer Maria Rilke)

We have no knowledge of his ancient brow
where pippins ripen. Yet his torso gleams,
reflecting the candela, luminous streams
that yet pour from his gaze, his glance’s glow

still radiant, though dimmed. If not, his bare
breast would not blind you in the silent turn
of hip and thighs, a smile not flash and burn
through groins, his genitals not ever glare.

If not, this stone would seem deformed and small,
the light beneath his shoulder’s sudden fall
not seem a preying panther’s shimmering mane,

not burst beyond the limits of the skies,
starlike, until there is no point or plane

blind to your ways. You must change your life.

Leo Yankevich Comments

Margaret O Driscoll 13 July 2015

Glad I checked out your poetry, just read Mother In The Garden and it nearly had me in tears!

9 2 Reply

excellent poems. you are great in explaining your feels. i invite you to read my poem

13 2 Reply
Dennis N. O'brien 27 October 2012

Thanks for posting your poems here - I enjoy reading them. Best wishes Dennis N. O'Brien

19 2 Reply
Michael Shepherd 21 September 2004

Leo - I am moved by and admire your poems enormously. Will you tell michael@shepherd87.fsnet.co.uk if you have published, or intend to publish? Best wishes.

17 2 Reply

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