Milosz – In Kraków

Czeslaw Milosz is regarded as one of the great poets of the 20th century. This poem caught my eye when it was first published in The New Yorker as, perhaps, a poetic theology of the body.  Enjoy!

In Kraków

On the border of this world and the beyond, in Kraków.

Tap-tap on the foot-worn flagstones of churches,

Generation after generation.  Here I came to understand

Something of the habits of my brothers and sisters.

The nakedness of a woman meets the nakedness of a man

And completes itself with its second half

Carnal, or even divine,

Which is likely the same thing,

As revealed to us in the Song of Songs.

And must not every one of them nestle down into the Eternally Living,

Into His scent of apples, saffron, cloves, and incense,

Into Him who is coming

With the brightness of glowing wax candles?

And He, divisible, separate for each of them,

Receives them, him and her, in a wafer, into their own flame.

They shade the glow of it with their mossy-misty costumes,

They wear masks of silk, porcelain, brass, and silver,

So as not to mislead with their own, ordinary faces.

Little crosses on the marble will adorn their tombs.

—   Czeslaw Milosz

Translated, from the Polish, by the author and Robert Hass.

The New Yorker, July 12, 2004


Michae!, SJ

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