Monday, March 19, 2012

Tuesday Poem--Statue of a Couple by Czesław Miłosz


I seem to be so in love with Miłosz these days, I can't help but keep posting. This poem moved me almost to tears when I first read it twenty years ago, and I haven't forgotten a bit of it.


STATUE OF A COUPLE
Your hand, my wonder, is now icy cold.
The purest light of the celestial dome
has burned me through. And now, we are
as still still plains lying in darkness,
as two black banks of a frozen stream
in the chasm of the world.
Our hair combed back is carved in wood,
the moon walks over our ebony shoulders.
A distant cockcrow, the night goes by, silent.
Rich is the rime of love, withered the dowry.
Where are you, living in what depths of time,
love, stepping down into what waters,
now, when the frost of our voiceless lips
does not fend off the divine fires?
In a forest of clouds, of foam, and of silver
we live, caressing lands under our feet.
And we are wielding the might of a dark scepter
to earn oblivion.
My love, your breast cut through by a chisel
knows nothing anymore of what it was.
Of clouds at dawn, of angers at daybreak,
of shadows in springtime it has no remembrance.
And you have led me, as once an angel led
Tobias, onto the rusty marshes of Lombardy.
But a day came when a sign frightened you,
a stigma of golden measure.
With a scream, with immobile fear in your thin hands
you fell into a pit that ashes lie over,
where neither northern firs nor Italian yews
could protect our ancient bed of lovers.
What was it, what is it, what will it be--
we filled the world with our cry and calling.
The dawn is back, the red moon set,
do we know now? In a heavy ship
A helmsman comes, throws a silken rope
and binds us tightly to each other,
then he pours on friends, once enemies,
a handful of snow.

7 comments:

  1. it is a stunning piece. thank you, dear melissa.

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  2. Something about that line "we filled the world with our cry and calling." really 'caught' me ...

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  3. I'm in love with Milosz, too, Melissa. Thankfully there's enough of him to go round the many of us who are. . .

    It's the closing stanza of this poem that leads me back to the beginning to read it again, and again - something about the heavy ship and the silken rope. . .

    "In a heavy ship
    A helmsman comes, throws a silken rope
    and binds us tightly to each other,
    then he pours on friends, once enemies,
    a handful of snow."

    Thanks, M.
    L, C xo

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  4. Angella, yes, it is stunning. I'm so glad you felt it that way.

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  5. Yes, Helen, that's a lovely line. The one that slays me is, "And you have led me, as once an angel led/Tobias, onto the rusty marshes of Lombardy." Who know why one or two lines nestle like a barb in the heart? So many of Milosz's lines are memorable, merciless, merciful.

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  6. Yes, Claire, the ending returns us to the beginning, and the final stanza is so beautiful. xo

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  7. Speechless. Or, breathless. I cannot highlight a line and say that's the one. It's too remarkable, every word, precious.

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