Published on Academy of American Poets (https://poets.org)


Artificer

Burning, he walks in the stream of flickering letters, clarinets,
machines throbbing quicker than the heart, lopped-off heads, silk
canvases, and he stops under the sky

and raises toward it his joined clenched fists.

Believers fall on their bellies, they suppose it is a monstrance that
   shines,

but those are knuckles, sharp knuckles shine that way, my friends.

He cuts the glowing, yellow buildings in two, breaks the walls into
   motley halves;
pensive, he looks at the honey seeping from those huge honeycombs:
throbs of pianos, children's cries, the thud of a head banging against
   the floor.
This is the only landscape able to make him feel.

He wonders at his brother's skull shaped like an egg,
every day he shoves back his black hair from his brow,
then one day he plants a big load of dynamite
and is surprised that afterward everything spouts up in the explosion.
Agape, he observes the clouds and what is hanging in them:
globes, penal codes, dead cats floating on their backs, locomotives.
They turn in the skeins of white clouds like trash in a puddle.
While below on the earth a banner, the color of a romantic rose,
   flutters,
and a long row of military trains crawls on the weed-covered tracks.

Wilno, 1931

 

Credit


From New and Collected Poems 1931-2001 by Czeslaw Milosz. Copyright © 2002 by Czeslaw Milosz. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins. All rights reserved.

Author


Czeslaw Milosz

Czeslaw Milosz, born in 1911, was awarded the 1980 Nobel Prize for Literature in recognition of his numerous collections of poetry and prose, written in his native Polish.

Date Published: 2002-01-01

Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/artificer