Last night I wandered around a downtown park filled with strange, beautiful, confounding, mesmerizing art: dancers, sculptors, glass blowers, painters, musicians, weavers, poets, mask makers. It was nightfall in the city. Skyscrapers glowed around the periphery of the park, light rail trains glided by, and storm clouds gathered and dispersed overhead. At one point I sat on the base of a sculpture and took it all in, the voices and laughter and absorption on the faces of the crowd.
Somehow there was a stillness to the whole scene, and a stillness in me too. No one around me was familiar, but my heart ached because I wanted to give something to them all. A conversation with a friend last week came back to me, in which she said she craved connection above all, and how there was both pain and relief in accepting that it didn’t have to come from romance. This morning I woke up and remembered this poem, by the incomparable Milosz.
Love, by Czeslaw Milosz
Love means to look at yourself
the way one looks at distant things
for you are only one thing among many.
And whoever sees that way heals his heart,
without knowing it, from various ills–
a bird and a tree say to him: Friend.
Then he wants to use himself and things
so that they stand in the glow of ripeness.
It doesn’t matter whether he knows what he serves:
Who serves best doesn’t always understand.
For more information about Czeslaw Milosz, please click here.
Here’s the fourth-floor walkup you called home. Here’s the tiny room overlooking Joy Street where Laurel used to roll her waitressing change into paper tubes for the rent. Here’s your room, with the big saggy bed left by a previous tenant. Here’s the bathroom where you didn’t pee at night because darkness was the domain of the cockroaches. Here’s the plant in the sunny window that you wound around itself because it was out of control. Here’s the curbside rocking chair that your friend lugged up for you. Here’s the curbside rug on the living room floor where you used to host your Chinese dinner parties. Here are the stairs he came running back up the last time you saw him. Here’s the couch you were lying on that spring Thursday when the phone call came. This is the place where your life broke. The place you fled a few weeks later. The place where you were a girl and then not. The place that comes back to you in dreams, just the way this poem does.
– Czeslaw Milosz
We were riding through frozen fields in a wagon at dawn.
A red wing rose in the darkness.
And suddenly a hare ran across the road.
One of us pointed to it with his hand.
That was long ago. Today neither of them is alive,
Not the hare, nor the man who made the gesture.
O my love, where are they, where are they going
The flash of a hand, streak of movement, rustle of pebbles.
I ask not out of sorrow, but in wonder.
For more information on Czeslaw Milosz, please click here.
Blacksmith Shop, by Czeslaw Milosz
I liked the bellows operated by rope.
A hand or a foot pedal – I don’t remember.
But that blowing and blazing of fire!
And a piece of iron in the fire, held there by tongs,
Red, softened, ready for the anvil,
Beaten with a hammer, bent into a horseshoe,
Thrown in a bucket of water, sizzle, steam.
And horses hitched to be shod,
Tossing their manes; and in the grass by the river
Plowshares, sledge runners, harrows waiting for repair.
At the entrance, my bare feet on the dirt floor,
Here, gusts of heat; at my back, white clouds,
I stare and stare. It seems I was called for this:
To glorify things just because they are.
Translated by the author and Robert Hass
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– Czeslaw Milosz
Hope is with you when you believe
the earth is not a dream but living flesh,
that sight, touch, and hearing do not lie,
that all things you have ever seen here
are like a garden looked at from a gate.
You cannot enter. But you’re sure it’s there.
Could we but look more clearly and wisely
we might discover somewhere in the garden
a strange new flower and an unnamed star.
Some people say we should not trust our eyes,
that there is nothing, just a seeming.
These are the ones who have no hope.
They think that the moment we turn away,
the world, behind our backs, ceases to exist,
as if snatched up by the hands of thieves.
For more information on Mr. Milosz, please click here.