translated by the poet

Unfathomable
this love of Jan Sobieski
for his enemy's beauty

Every day for twenty years
he'd write to his wife
half in Polish and half in French
And about the Turkish spoils after victory
des fort jolies choses et fort riches
mais fort riches

Among all of Hussein Pasha's treasures
he fell in love with a silk embroidery
with two thousand rubies and emeralds
He loved it so
he draped it over his horse
on his coronation day

Indebted to the Grand Duke of Tuscany
he parted with it
The Duke had it taken down
in the register and stored –
Una cosa del barbaro lusso

  Hotel Amerika, vol. 13, Winter 2015

Note: Sobieski (1629-1696) is principally known to the rest of the world because, as king of Poland and Commander of the joint Polish, Austrian and German armies, he stopped the Ottoman army's advance outside Vienna in 1683. But he had vanquished the same army before, at the battle of Hocim in 1673. It was this victory that led to him being elected King a year later. "Des fort jolies choses et fort riches / mais fort riches" (Fr.): most pretty things and most rich / but most rich. "Una cosa del barbaro lusso" (Ital.): an object of barbaric luxury.