You whom I could not save
Listen to me.
Try to understand this simple speech as I would be ashamed of another.
I swear, there is in me no wizardry of words.
I speak to you with silence like a cloud or a tree.
What strengthened me, for you was lethal.
You mixed up farewell to an epoch with the beginning of a new one,
Inspiration of hatred with lyrical beauty;
Blind force with accomplished shape.
Here is a valley of shallow Polish rivers. And an immense bridge
Going into white fog. Here is a broken city;
And the wind throws the screams of gulls on your grave
When I am talking with you.
What is poetry which does not save
Nations or people?
A connivance with official lies,
A song of drunkards whose throats will be cut in a moment,
Readings for sophomore girls.
That I wanted good poetry without knowing it,
That I discovered, late, its salutary aim,
In this and only this I find salvation.
They used to pour millet on graves or poppy seeds
To feed the dead who would come disguised as birds.
I put this book here for you, who once lived
So that you should visit us no more.
- by Czeslaw Milosz
st, 13 dec 13
Copyright © 1988 by Czeslaw Milosz Royalties, Inc.
Used by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.
Source: The Collected Poems: 1931-1987 (The Ecco Press, 1988)
It is impossible to be in two places at any given instance.
An example: I live in the little house on Valley Road. All my possessions are in my room on Lancewood Street. I live with my (chosen) family. My relatives are related to each other, as they also happen to be related to me. The love of my life exhales, soundless against my neck, while I inhale the memories of a homeless Californian who found home with me.
I am awake yet I am not dreaming.
Observe: if you cut yourself up and entrust these pieces to the farthest corners of the universe, only one of the following can happen:
1. You could stay just outside and encompass the whole universe along its perimeter (e.g. she encompasses the universe);
2. You are just you still, and is within and inside the universe (e.g. she is among the stars in the universe);
3. Your pieces will no longer be different from floating debris, ‘these’ are x number of pieces, and these pieces cease to carry your identity (e.g. ‘they’ (not she) are scattered far apart).
One cannot be all of these at once.
My heart belongs to one. It yearns for another. It believes in the one. It knows of no other happiness but with the other. I want to go, I want to stay. Distance is only too relative, yet both are, regardless, so far.
Snows wrapt in valley,
Each day I return to her,
. . . Flowers in winter.
Declared to be the home of the ants,
the barn was, also, shared by the dogs
and the big lizards who stored
formidable teeth opposite the nipping
mandibles. Each moment the favorite
spaces became temples traversed by
wandering dotted lines while,
certainly, a pause to clean the claws
gave time for articles of memory. Attire
provided a music festival to brighten the
warm days with delicate sounds within
dark recesses where chilly dust filtered
the beams to secure the rafters. Along
these trails, the plight was relieved; the
threat was removed to slumber waiting
for a wind swept rush of fur. Pulling
the shutters back from the eyes, the
working specks of the ants proclaimed
their choices and followed these
implications into predicaments leading
them to be wise. The influence
demonstrated the passing of lives into
praise for the correct answers by which
the ways advanced to persist. There was
plenty of empty, sweet time hovering
above their heads yet leaving them
impatient to see a transpired eternity,
gathered in a massive tribe, ready to
explore the encroaching season with its
microscopic grasses and piles of stone.
As an institution, the old, red building
weathered its boards in the valley,
forgotten by more pragmatic industries
in cans and bottles of plastic. To wear
the collar of the ant or the lizard was a
rare honor not granted in the homes
of many house wives. It was as rare as
gold to find lodging with the fascinating
mercy of the human outlook. It was a
great deal of trouble to look after these
others, small or large as they might be.
Seemingly, it was difficult to explain the
logic intended to regulate the wild,
independent lives, and, as they were
misguided, an anger tended to drive them
closer rather than away. Under the skin,
it was very close to an intolerable form of
humor, but what explained itself as being
very funny also remained the hostility
alienated and inevitable, like the slamming
horns of the sheep and goats, like the poetry
of the birds and the herds.
Does she know that I want to sleep in the valley between her breasts?
Does she know that home for me is having my ear beside her chest?
Does she know that when her legs are intertwined with mine
I feel like I finally have enough strength to survive?
Does she know that the softness of her skin is life for my weary bones?
Does she know that when our bodies meet, courage is what she loans?
Does she know that her small hand sliding across my torso
Is for me, my breath and bread and smiles and laughter... Only more so?
Does she know how I feel when I hear her say my name?
Does she know that every little movement ignites a fire of a million burning flames?
Does she know that without her being by my side
It only becomes more clear to me, dear, I must make you my bride.
I could stumble from one end of town
to the other,
a mile of tripping over my own feet
somewhere between the water and the hills
between the fishes and the coyotes.
Twelve years as a tide,
scraping the same sand with raw fingers
waiting for the current to tug me out to sea.
tossing and turning,
the city set on spin-cycle.
We built a house atop a mound of dirt,
overlooking the valley of sticks and tanned grass
inhabited by the breakers.
The leather skinned reptiles who found dust
beyond their childhoods.
Where the tide has crashed for a hundred years
and the floaters and drinkers,
the crumbling ambitions have washed ashore
along the Payette River.
I see the same horizon from every street corner.
The only variable
is the number of cars that pass through everyday
and have the unfair luck
of escaping the city limits.
I find myself standing alone in the barren valley. The wind is cold, it burns my nose. I feel it moving my hair. Shivers run though me. The smell it brings tells me that snow is not far off.
Looking in the distance, clouds cover the mountain. It's where I must go. A new home lies beyond the tall peaks. It's calling me. Why did it send it's message now?
It's hard to explain this pull it has over me. I must get there. It's where I belong. Where I am supposed to be. Moving forward I keep my focus. Determined to survive.
It's warmer now. I feel the heat of the sun. The brightness of the day has replaced the gray of the dawn. Others are making themselves known.
A virgin countryside
Beneath the charcoal grey,
Whose bottom is alight
Shrouds the valley,
Blanketed in snow
Still and cool and quiet.
Gentle snowflakes kiss my cheek
Sitting fireside, with hominess
Warmed at the hearth of the sky
Hushed, the world, laying asleep
From holy halls, their lullabies
Smile, do the elements,
Their dream is what has become.
And so it is,
A dream, a dream,
Though I am awake
These little souls, their lanterns bright
Hold me to the end, across an endless earth
White in winter’s hollowness
I dream of you for all it’s worth.
Brave, must I, the motherly whitened path
And dream of distant you—
It keeps me warm, fireside
I thank the treasures, soul supplied.
My hearth is cold
With none to share
The brilliance of a chaste expanse
With none to help me stare.
I have a long way to that hearth
That I’ll call my own
The souls, the winter—Carry me home!
Soon, we’ll go
Your hand in mine,
Accoutrements of clothed embrace
We’ll go, so soon
Once I’ve stepped from this dream,
To have heated hearth of our own.
But now, I can’t
I follow the souls’ little lit lanterns
Through the valley in the snow,
I go alone,
In their solemn palms
As they carry my lost one home.
Let us begin in the factoring of gin where the malefactors and blaggards try hard not to show us a grin.
Factor out taste and factor in waste in the factory, in any case nobody cares,and the gin could be anything from nappies to crappy toys for the big boys and pearls for the girls,but we call it gin.
They're all scammers,flim flamming their way from the start to the end of each day and we pay,through the nose,for fuck knows what,(a touch of soylent green),get your brains on toast,shin for sunday roast and the marketeers,new age buccaneers blow us out of the water,someone should have taught me how cruel this life can be.
and we begin.
Back in the factory buying up gin with a passion,the fashionistas get pissed on the fumes and the poor people are shown only crap filled back rooms where the gnomes sit to shit out, tomorrow we'll sit out in the sun,spit out what's home spun and make money from telling funny jokes to the poker faced liars and the gin filled flash buyers who have bought up our Christmas and resold it to China,
'and it's another fine mess dear Laurel,please pass me the bottle of 'mist chloral'.
'Why certainly' said Stanley who seemed ever so manly in the valley when the dolls had gone home.
It's been a long summer
The valley was as hot as ever
We added one year to our number
Soaking in your comfort
It was such a peaceful slumber
We're always so free when were younger
Through the heat we suffered
Our love so stubborn