I generally try and post original poems, but this one by Czeslaw Milosz really got to me, and seems to fit in with the themes of acceptance and gratitude that have been rolling around this site the last few weeks. I thought I’d post it and see where the poetic conversation went, maybe even post a poem in reply myself.
* * *
A day so happy.
The fog lifted early, I worked in the garden.
Hummingbirds were stopping over the honeysuckle flowers.
There was no thing on earth I wanted to posses.
I knew no one worth my envying him.
Whatever evil I had suffered, I forgot.
To think that once I was the same man did not embarass me.
In my body I felt no pain.
When straightening up, I saw the blue sea and sails.
* * *
Taken from: Risking Everything – 110 Poems of Love and Revelation edited by Roger Housden
12 thoughts on “Sohbet – Gift”
“To think that once I was the same man did not embarass me.”
what do you think he means? same as whom? any suggestions?
yeah, that line gave me pause when I was entering it. The poem is translated from the original Polish, so may have lost some of the reference there.
I get the feeling it is about acceptance though, not being troubled by who you really are, no matter what.
Any other ideas? Anybody speak Polish?
I don’t speak Polish but my take on this line is that he finally recognizes the whole of himself rather than just a part of himself. He sees that what he presented to the world was slivers of the whole. It is reflected in his sentiment of seeing parts of nature become one whole expression of beauty. And in seeing wholeness in himself and in nature he finds happiness.
thanks Valerie and Donna,
i agree with what both of you have said. my take on it is that he is experiencing absence/emptiness as supreme happiness. absence of wanting to possess, absence of envy, absence of suffering and all this is expressed as an absence of pain. the happiness only comes about because he can remember experiencing all these things at one time and now he is free, no longer that same man.
From the wisdom of my mother:
“Gee I didn’t know you were a fan of Milosz!
You’re absolutely right, something IS lost in translation. The word ‘bylem’ translates as past tense in English, but in this poem, in Polish, it is present tense!!!! Here is my translation:
I was not ashamed to think that I am who I am.
awesome! how helpful, Z. see valerie, you’re so famous, someone was bound to come along who speaks polish.
Perfect! Thanks for the translation. It’s much clearer now. And all the more beautiful!
Okay, a poem. Finally. Much shorter than Milosz’s but I think coming from the same space:
* * *
taste of licorice on my tongue
warm breeze across my throat
* * *
anybody else got a poem???
named by my grandmother
to bless the family with many generations of sons
girl to woman
no longer the obedient to others
only obedient to my truth
a not so innocent innocent
open to possibilities
Freedom is the word that comes out of it for me. I am reminded of a lyric from Johnny Cash’s last recording sessions. I’m not a big Johnny fan, but he has(d) a unique outlook on things.
“How many times have you heard someone say, if I had his money I could do things my way. But little they know, it’s so hard to find one rich man in ten with a satisfied mind.”
It seems to me he is saying that it is how we respond to things mentally that matters. Being present in the moment is what I am trying to achieve too. I spend way too much time in the past and future, and I know it deteriorates my peace. Money, pain, envy are some of the things that Milosz and Cash are pointing us to that distract us from contentment. Contentment could still be able to be able to be found in life’s experiences of flowers, birds, sea and sails. I’m still working on it. I can assume most of us haven’t arrived yet either.
Isn’t life interesting?
Free as birth
When I have found
A day of good work,
Every face friendly at this last first aid class,
There is no conversation I’d like better to have.
Thinking, trying, coals squeezed to crystal,
Watched by everyone, I act out my response
To unknown emergency, moment by moment.
I taste my skills codefied, a light salt of pride.
I thank once more for each risky grace, each remembered survival.
So happy in my skin today, when I lie down as the patient,
My hem flops up, and I don’t worry.
I smooth my skirts down.
Even as I drove, I was trustworthy.
Stopping at a bottleneck
Air rushing in the open windows
Stops for the radio’s melody.
Learning the chorus, I’m singing along.