She got out at Raspail. I was left behind with
the immensity of existing things. A sponge,
suffering because it cannot saturate itself, a river
suffering because reflections of clouds and trees
are not clouds and trees.
Czeslaw Milosz, “Esse”
A season of breeze-borne light,
And, in your phrase, “the immensity of existing things,”
Enclosed us there.
Among listeners you read almost in confidence,
Almost in the apology of creation,
And the chord of conscience.
What was it that “Esse” meant to you?
Your voice was grave, in the timbre of loss.
You recited in the measure of the heart’s broken pulse.
I wanted to know you, to have known you
For many years
In the immensity of existing things.
Afterwards you returned to yourself ;
You were definitively Milosz, gracious and at ease,
An old man of an old Europe, a gentleman
Of languages. You attempted to name the world,
And in precise syllables you succeeded.
Outside, among the elder trees
And beside the grassy banks of a slow, transparent stream,
You seemed to contemplate an unforgiving history,
and the difference between clouds and their reflection.
Used with permission of the poet.
And whom do I call my enemy?
An enemy must be worthy of engagement.
I turn in the direction of the sun and keep walking.
It’s the heart that asks the question, not my furious mind.
The heart is the smaller cousin of the sun.
It sees and knows everything.
It hears the gnashing even as it hears the blessing.
The door to the mind should only open from the heart.
An enemy who gets in, risks the danger of becoming a friend.
Harjo, Joy, Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings: Poems; Copyright © 2015 by W. W. Norton & Company. Reprinted with permission of Anderson Literary Management LLC, 244 Fifth Avenue, Floor 11, New York, NY 10001.
I had a beautiful dream I was dancing with a tree.
Some things on this earth are unspeakable:
Genealogy of the broken—
A shy wind threading leaves after a massacre,
Or the smell of coffee and no one there—
Some humans say trees are not sentient beings,
But they do not understand poetry—
Nor can they hear the singing of trees when they are fed by
Wind, or water music—
Or hear their cries of anguish when they are broken and bereft—
Now I am a woman longing to be a tree, planted in a moist, dark earth
Between sunrise and sunset—
I cannot walk through all realms—
I carry a yearning I cannot bear alone in the dark—
What shall I do with all this heartache?
The deepest-rooted dream of a tree is to walk
Even just a little ways, from the place next to the doorway—
To the edge of the river of life, and drink—
I have heard trees talking, long after the sun has gone down:
Imagine what would it be like to dance close together
In this land of water and knowledge. . .
To drink deep what is undrinkable.
From Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings by Joy Harjo. Copyright © 2015 by Joy Harjo. Used with permission of the publisher, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved.