If it’s all a dream, let’s dream it to the bottom.***
… [A] poet without community
Rustles in the wind like dry grasses in December.
Young reader, you won’t live inside a rose.
That country has its plains, its rivers,
But it is as frail as the edge of the morning.
It’s we who create it every day anew,
By respecting as real many more things
Than are frozen between a noun and its sound.
We wrest them from the world by force.
If got to easily, they don’t exist at all.
So, farewell, things gone. Your echo calls us,
But we need to speak gracelessly and roughly.
[Miłosz expands upon this passage in one of the many notes to the poem: “We sustain the existence of the realm of poetry only through daily effort. It is wrested from the world not by negating the things of the world, but by respecting them more than we respect aesthetic values. That is the condition for creating valid beauty. If it is obtained too easily, it evaporates. This passage presents the principle of realistic poetics….”]
I do not know how to bear my pity.
Yesterday a snake crossed the road at dusk.
Crushed by a tire, it writhed on the asphalt.
We are both the snake and the wheel.
There are two dimensions. Here is the unattainable
Truth of being, here, at the edge of lasting
And not lasting. Where the parallel lines intersect,
Time lifted above time by time.
[From the author’s notes to the poem:]
Let us not exaggerate French influence, which favored the search for essence at the expense of range, and thus discouraged the kind of poetry that describes everyday life. […] In French poetry a reaction against the “purity” advocated by Mallarmé came around 1913, not without some borrowing from Walt Whitman and his French translator, Valery Larbaud … who … introduced a poetry of avid absorption of the world, cosmopolitan in its subject matter and descriptive. Travel also informed the poetry of Blaise Cendrars […], who tried to describe landscapes with photographic exactness. Cendrars’s “Easter in New York” appeared in 1913, the same year as “Zone,” the poem of Paris by his friend Guillaume Apollinaire…. These two poets represent a high point in modern French poetry, which has, however, chosen the Mallarméan path of condensing, distilling, and refining the language in search of a “pure lyricism.”
[From the fourth novel in Lawrence Durrell’s Avignon Quintet, Sebastian:]
Freud like Darwin was truthful to the point of holiness. Their devout scientific atheism had the necessary rigour to produce results. When you look through a telescope of high magnification you must hold your breath so the image does not waver. Now, how poor the dialogue has become. Not science but semantics rules! Paris, instead of playing a seminal role to replace the murdered Vienna, has reaffirmed its lesser role as the capital of fashion in ideas, of superficiality. Spindrift of politics fabricated by educated poltroons with taste. Barbe à papa, a candy-floss culture.
When on has seen someone die, someone stop breathing, one realizes with a start how one breath is hooked into another, is attached to another. In between the breaths is the space where we live, between the beforebreath and the afterbreath is a field or realm where time exists and then ceases to exist. Our impression of reality is woven by the breathing like a suit of chain mail.
[Speaking of the post-WWII period. Important, perhaps, to note that these insights are delivered by a serial killer….]
The one thing the war had not changed or debased was pornography; if anything, far from reducing it, it had caused an efflorescence, an increase. So necessary is it for the scared human ego to belittle a force which it recognizes as being incalculably stronger than itself—the only really uncontrollable force man knows: for even if repressed it bursts out in symbolism, violence, dreaming, madness….
Absolutes spawn restrictive systems; but provisionals in their elasticity allow us to breathe.
[Alan Lightman in the Vol. 13, No. 3 issue of Tin House]
Where are the one billion people who lived and breathed in the year 1800…?
Read the full poem here.Spring and all its flowers
now joyously break their vow of silence.
It is time for celebration, not for lying low;
You too — weed out those roots of sadness from your heart.
The Sabaa wind arrives;
and in deep resonance, the flower
passionately rips open its garments,
thrusting itself from itself.