Remembering Milosz and Esse
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.