A text for Czelaw Milosz

A text for Czelaw Milosz

After a recent trip I had been thinking once again about this poem I wrote several years ago after the death of the great poet C. Milosz. I thought I might even send it out into the world. So here it is:

I find these new words for you,
my friend from a distant country,
In those things you’d seen I found there were enough echoes
for my own times,
those building which burned for days,
that country where every line of sight intersected a field,
and finally those new cities which one could not walk out of,
girdled by roads and motorways,
a few hundred years of history burned deep into the ground.
But that was before we’d met, that would come later.
There was first another journey to make across desert and plain,
towards the mountain — for there was only one.
A strange place, the summit rounded, a grassy knoll,
no trees, no wind, a silence absolute,
something I’d never experienced before.
Standing in the driveway there I could hear the blood in my own ears.
Beneath me the long low plains where there’d once been an ocean,
Empty now right to the horizon.
How to survive this, this silence and solitude?
You spoke to me, although I had not been expecting it.
I wrote your words down, I stored them in the heart of a computer
fifty kilometers distant.
I sent them away from me by microwaves and fibre optic cable,
but kept them with me.
I commited them to memory.
I sensed there was a future and a past here,
yet to unfold.

There were more voyages.
You were with me that night in Esalen,
the waves of the pacific crashing against the darkened shoreline far
my body suspended in the heated waters,
impossibly separate.
For an instant,
a fleeting thought told me what was important and what mattered,
and what did not.

And still the ground unrolled beneath my feet,
latitude clicking back towards zero.
I stood in streets with sea as an end to them,
my shadow straight and inky black beneath my feet.
Forever trying to understand when it was that your verse met this reality,
This glittering sea before my eyes.

Then this last city, perhaps the most dangerous:
An intricate hypnotic web of streets,
Ruthlessly fractured to follow the dictates of science and art,
Lines of heaven drawn to the earth.
And suddenly I found myself there at the origin,
the zero-point,
It all seemed so true,
in a way other cities could never be true.
Perfection had somehow been granted to this corner of the world.
And beyond this centre,
the Universe faded away,
greyed out,
became unreal.
Voyages were unecessary:
After all, the city was all that existed.

In this sleep, from this distance,
I read your words again,
I layered your verse onto the buildings and streets around me,
And through them,
Walls and and buildings became transparent,
The city shrank, the world returned.

How does this end?
The traveller, perhaps, may not return to his point of origin.
There are lines which are only that, lines, which do not connect.
And I am in the present, and the past is the past.
I am underground, and far above I see the small disk of sky,
an undiscovered blue planet.
The roads and lines radiate outwards around me.
A parallel universe to the streets and cafes above.
I hestiate, of course.
At the exit, who knows?
But in my mind there is the amulet of your verse.
I start walking.

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