I've been working on some of the depression issues mentioned a few posts back, making progress. Been making a concerted effort to have fun. Lots of weekend trips to Athens, socializing, concerts, that sort of thing. Starting to create things again too! I've made a mixtape for the first time....like a proper mixtape. Did it in Audacity. Didn't try to do tempo/beat-shifting or anything fancy, just 29 minutes of cutting and fading. I still think it turned out quite well for a first effort. It leans strongly in the electronic/dance direction so if that's a big turn off for you steer clear. Anyway, onwards and upwards. And to steal from Milosz and Neruda: "Yes, this is my gift to you. Above ashes on a bitter, bitter earth. To you, to the one who unknowingly has awaited me, I belong and acknowledge and sing."
I need another dose of Milosz. Perhaps you do too. Here we go...
In my dreams my guardian angel takes the form of a woman, Not always the same one. He knows that I, a fleshly creature, Need a lover's touch. We don't make love, But there is a closeness between us, and understanding.
I never believed in the presence of angels, but my dreams have changed, And when, recently, I found an underground grotto filled with treasure, And we were moving the sacks together, I asked him For one more moment of the dream, which gave me peace.
Should start hacking more. Or posting about hacks? Haven't been writing anything terribly interesting lately though. Lots of config updates, work stuff, odds and ends. Little of substance. So in lieu of that, some soul nourishing poetry. Been reading more Milosz lately; Second Space, in particular. There are several really lovely pieces, here's one:
A Stay My stay in that city was like a dream And the dream lasted for years.
I was, in fact, not interested in anything So long as I heard a voice dictating verses.
And in that way I invented a life, And thus my destiny was being fulfilled.
Some people believed I was theirs, So they put trust in my disguises.
I reproach myself for that, For I wanted to be different, Trustworthy, brave, noble-minded.
Later on I would only say: why reach so high? I am and will be lame, Which is no one's concern.
Today is my 25th birthday. So far I've mostly done chores: grocery shopping, laundry, handing over the keys to my old apartment, odds and ends. And, by design, I don't have any social plans for this afternoon or evening. I'm usually pretty pensive and melancholy around my birthday. This year continues the trend. Generally, when my birthday is coming up I think, "Okay. You've gotten this far and accomplished this much. Maybe it wasn't all you wanted but at least you're further than last year. What's next?" Not the best party conversation. :)
In all fairness, it's been a good year. I finally finished my undergrad degree, got my first job as a professional programmer (a damn good job at that), and moved into an apartment with one of my oldest and dearest friends. That said, I've been struggling a lot lately. A large part of that is because I don't know what I want for myself anymore or what my goals are. Personal relationships both romantic and otherwise, career ambitions and hobbies all seem up in the air. It's had me feeling pretty mixed up. I can't say I'm terribly proud of where I am at 25. Oh, well. I'll certainly enjoy taking some time off this winter to try and sort through things more. At least I've had fun hacking on Andy Hefner's Shuffletron (a Common Lisp command line app, something I have *some* experience with...) music player lately. The main changes so far have been to add playlists and a long TODO file. It's a fun diversion until I get ever so slightly more acclimated to my professional coding life and come up with a serious project that will push me more.
It's been hard to post lately for two reasons. The first is that I've simply been busy. The second is that I haven't had much to say. My thoughts are jumbled. The same thing happened last year and like last year I'm going to borrow some of the words of my favorite poet, Czeslaw Milosz. Wherever you are, thanks for reading this far and I hope the sun is bright and your world is well.
Conversations with Jeanne
Let us not talk philosophy, drop it, Jeanne. So many words, so much paper, who can stand it. I told you the truth about distancing myself. I've stopped worrying about my misshapen life. It was no better and no worse than the usual human tragedies.
For over thirty years we have been waging our dispute As we do now, on the island under the skies of the tropics. We flee a downpour, in an instant the bright sun again, And I grow dumb, dazzled by the emerald essence of the leaves.
We submerge in foam at the line of the surf, We swim far, to where the horizon is a tangle of banana bush, With little windmills of palms. And I am under accusation: That I am not up to my oeuvre, That I do not demand enough from myself, As I could have learned from Karl Jaspers, That my scorn for the opinions of this age grows slack.
I roll on a wave and look at white clouds.
You are right, Jeanne, I don't know how to care about the salvation of my soul. Some are called, others manage as well as they can. I accept it, what has befallen me is just. I don't pretend to the dignity of a wise old age. Untranslatable into words, I chose my home in what is now, In things of this world, which exist and, for that reason, delight us: Nakedness of women on the beach, coppery cones of their breasts, Hibiscus, alamanda, a red lily, devouring With my eyes, lips, tongue. Guava juice, the juice of la prune de Cythere, Rum with ice and syrup, lianas-orchids In a rain forest, where trees stand on the stilts of their roots.
Death you say, mine and yours, closer and closer, We suffered and this poor earth was not enough. The purple-black earth of vegetable gardens Will be here, either looked at or not. The sea, as today, will breathe from its depths. Growing small, I disappear in the immense, more and more free.
"Where does humility come from? From sitting down and putting little signs on paper with the hope of expressing something. I am able to spend whole days on the occupation, but as soon as I finish I see that I did not express anything. I would like to consider myself a genius; I do not manage it. To tell the truth, I don't know where the geniuses of literature are whom I should envy. Those of the past are caught in the manners and style of their period; those of today move with difficulty in a transparent jam that is slowly coagulating. And I, always insatiable, just as in this moment when I come to the window, see a tower with a clock, snow underneath it on the lawns of the Ann Arbor campus, a girl walking on a pathway, and the very act of being here, by the window, in this moment similar to any other, i.e., unrepeatable, with the whiteness of the snow and the movement of legs observed from above, is sufficient to initiate my lament on the insufficiency of language." - Czeslaw Milosz, Unattainable Earth, Pg. 40
It's been a big weekend. I'm pretty exhausted and not entirely ready for the week to come but I'll have to get a good night's sleep and let that suffice as preparation. I'm still working on the weblocks/lisp stuff. Should have a blog article up by this Friday with any luck and there are plans for more in the series.
I enjoyed a friend's wedding in San Antonio the past two days. One thing I noticed today is that I never posted a Milosz poem that seemed appropriate to the weekend's events. I figured I would have by now. I'm quite fond of it so here it is, from Unattainable Earth, page 9:
Don't run any more. Quiet. How softly it rains On the roofs of the city. How perfect All things are. Now, for the two of you Waking up in a royal bed by a garret window. For a man and a woman. For one plant divided Into masculine and feminine which longed for each other. Yes, this is my gift to you. Above ashes On a bitter, bitter earth. Above the subterranean Echo of clamorings and vows. So that now at dawn You must be attentive: the tilt of a head, A hand with a comb, two faces in a mirror Are only forever once, even if unremembered, So that you watch what is, though it fades away, And are grateful every moment for your being. Let that little park with greenish marble busts In the pearl-gray light, under a summer drizzle, Remain as it was when you opened the gate. And the street of tall peeling porticos Which this love of yours suddenly transformed.
I bombed a math quiz today. I mean, actually bombed. As in I think I got a zero. Guess it's time to go re-read the sections and redo the homework.
I wrote a poem recently about how progress is deceptive because it doesn't feel like progress. It feels like plodding along. But I was mostly just trying to convince myself. I don't think I really believe it.
I keep thinking to myself, "you've got a year or two to really excel. If you can't manage that, you'll be an average person. Forever." I have difficulty ascertaining whether or not my level of stress or ambition, for that matter, is appropriate.
Something I accidentally wrote on the bus ride home:
I never know why we put up with each other. The mystery of your flared temper or my sudden detachment. But we keep blowing along, buoyed by unseen currents and dancing in dwindling circles. I sometimes wish, might I cut the chase and stand in the center? But we are opposed magnets in a small room, unable to meet each other, unable to rest.
Hell with it. Here's some good sad bastard music just because.
Things have been fairly ridiculous for the last 10 days. I won't go into details because they concern some other people that might not want them discussed. That said, things have been fairly ridiculous and I've had a hard time focusing on doing schoolwork or anything else. I'm trying not to get overwhelmed by everything. I feel like I can't keep up with school and personal pursuits but that's far from the truth and I'm slowly trying to get my head together. That means it's time for something uplifting though and I've haven't posted any Milosz in a while so here we go.
Earth Again by Czeslaw Milosz, excerpted from Unattainable Earth pg. 8 They are incomprehensible, the things of this earth. The lure of waters. The lure of fruits. Lure of the two breasts and long hair of a maiden. In rouge, in vermillion, in that color of ponds Found only in the Green Lakes near Wilno. And ungraspable multitudes swarm, come together In the crinkles of tree bark, in the telescope's eye, For an endless wedding, For the kindling of the eyes, for a sweet dance In the elements of the air, sea, earth and subterranean caves, So that for a short moment there is no death And time does not unreel like a skein of yarn Thrown into an abyss.
PS: My bracket predictions have been correct for the berrics two out of two times thus far. Post some brackets people!
There was a fragment of Milosz stuck in my head the last 24 hours that I wanted to track down and get out of my system. It was originally printed as an Inscript in Unattainable Earth but I found it reprinted in his New and Collected Poems on pgs. 412-413.
What did I really want to tell them? That I labored to transcend my place and time, searching for the Real. And here is my work done (commendably?), my life fulfilled, as it was destined to be, in grief. Now I appear to myself as one who was under the delusion of being his own while he was the subject of a style. Just as they were, so what if it was a different subjection. "Do you want white peacocks?-- I will give you white peacocks." And we could have been united only by what we have in common: the same nakedness in a garden beyond time, but the moments are short when it seems to me that, at odds with time, we hold each other's hands. And I drink wine and I shake my head and say: "What man feels and thinks will never be expressed."
This is a Czeslaw Milosz poem that should have found it's way here a long time ago. It's called Preparation.
Still one more year of preparation. Tomorrow at the latest I’ll start working on a great book In which my century will appear as it really was. The sun will rise over the righteous and the wicked. Springs and autumns will unerringly return. In a wet thicket a thrush will build his nest lined with clay And foxes will learn their foxy natures.
And that will be the subject, with addenda. Thus: armies Running across frozen plains, shouting a curse In a many-voiced chorus; the cannon of a tank Growing immense at the corner of a street; the ride at dusk Into a camp with watchtowers and barbed wire.
No, it won’t happen tomorrow. In five or ten years. I still think too much about the mothers And ask what is a man born of woman. He curls himself up and protects his head While he is kicked by heavy boots; on fire and running, He burns with a bright flame; a bulldozer sweeps him into a clay pit. Her child. Embracing a teddy bear. Conceived in ecstasy.
I haven’t learned yet to speak as I should, calmly.
"To find my home in one sentence, concise, as if hammered in metal. Not to enchant anybody. Not to earn a lasting name in posterity. An unnamed need for order, for rhythm, for form, which three words are opposed to chaos and nothingness." - Czeslaw Milosz, Unattainable Earth, Pg. 141 (the last page)
"Since my youth I have tried to capture in words a reality such as I contemplated walking the streets of a human city and I have never succeeded; that is why each of my poems seems to me the token of an unaccomplished oeuvre. I learned early that language does not adhere to what we really are, that we move in a big make-believe which is maintained by books and pages of newsprint. And every one of my efforts to say something real ended the same way, by my being driven back to the enclosure of from, as if I were a sheep straying from the flock." - Czeslaw Milosz, Unattainable Earth, Pg. 32
"I have always aspired to a more spacious form that would be free form the claims of poetry or prose and would let us understand each other without exposing the author or reader to sublime agonies.
In the very essence of poetry there is something indecent: a thing is brought forth which we didn't know we had in us, so we blink our eyes, as if a tiger had sprung out and stood in the light, lashing his tail.
That's why poetry is rightly said to be dictated by a daimonion, though it's an exaggeration to maintain that he must be an angel. It's hard to guess where that pride of poets comes from, when so often they're put to shame by the disclosure of their frailty.
What reasonable man would like to be a city of demons, who behave as if they were at home, speak in many tongues, and who, not satisfied with stealing his lips or hand, work at changing his destiny for their convenience?
It's true that what is morbid is highly valued today, and so you may think I am only joking or that I've devised just one more means of praising Art with the help of irony.
There was a time when only wise books were read, helping us to bear our pain and misery. This, after all, is not quite the same as leafing through a thousand works fresh from psychiatric clinics.
And yet the world is different from what it seems to be and we are other than how we see ourselves in our ravings People therefore preserve silent integrity, thus earning the respect of their relatives and neighbors.
The purpose of poetry is to remind us how difficulty it is to remain just one person, for our house is open, there are no keys in the doors, and invisible guests come in and out at will.
What I'm saying here is no, I agree, poetry, as poems should be written rarely and reluctantly, under unbearable duress and only with the hope that good spirits, not evil ones, choose us for their instrument." - Czeslaw Milosz, Ars Poetica, New and Collected Poems Pg. 240
It seems I just can't help myself when it comes to this guy. Here's some of his work from Second Spaces which I believe is the last of his poems that were published.
From Part III, Treatise on Theology: 4. I Apologize I apologize, most reverend theologians, for a tone not befitting the purple of your robes. I thrash in the bed of my style, searching for a comfortable position, not too sanctimonious and not too mundane. There must be a middle place between abstraction and childishness where one can talk seriously about serious things. Catholic dogma is a few inches too high; we stand on our toes and for a moment it seems to us that we see. Yet the mystery of the Holy Trinity, the mystery of Original Sin, the mystery of the Redemption are well armored against reason. Which tries in vain to get straight the story of God before His creation of the world, and when the separation into good and evil occurred in His Kingdom. What in all that can be grasped by little girls in white for First Communion! If even gray-haired theologians concede that it is too much for them, close the book, and invoke the inadequacy of the human tongue. But it will not do to prattle on about soft little Jesus in the hay of His manger.
And also this one, from Part III's Treatise on Theology as well: 15. Religion Comes Religion comes from our pity for humans. They are too weak to live without divine protection. Too weak to listen to the screeching noise of the turning of infernal wheels. Who among us would accept a universe in which there was not one voice Of compassion, pity, understanding? To be human is to be completely alien amid the galaxies. Which is sufficient reason for erecting, together with others, the temples of an unimaginable mercy.
It's been a nice, leisurely weekend thus far. I've been meaning to post more and to post some things that are a bit less technical but I've been bad about making the time of late. This is a smattering of things that have been backed up in my head.
I realized recently that there's a Milosz poem I never threw up here that I really wished I had. It's titled Diary of a Naturalist and taken out of his work From The Rising of The Sun.
My generation was lost. Cities too. And nations. But all this a little later. Meanwhile, in the window, a swallow Performs its rite of the second. That boy, does he already suspect That beauty is always elsewhere and always delusive? Now he sees his homeland. At the time of the second mowing. Roads winding uphill and down. Pine groves. Lakes. An overcast sky with one slanting ray. And everywhere men with scythes, in shirts of unbleached linen And the dark-blue trousers that were common in the province. He sees what I see even now. Oh but he was clever, Attentive, as if things were instantly changed by memory. Riding in a cart, he looked back to retain as much as possible. Which means he knew what was needed for some ultimate moment When he would compose from fragments a world perfect at last.
Isn't that nice? Here's one I wrote that just sort of flew out this afternoon: The world is not chaos or justice, Mere good and bad happening all round. Swept under the rug in our wake, Dust returning to dust, in clumps at that. We do not like to go quietly, or alone. But what of the unquantifiable interim? Ah, qualified not quantified: Rich, peerless, Are there stories greater than our own? Certainly not with more twists, turns, surprises. Still, here I am, trying to understand how: I have become trapped like a fly in amber. Like those who have come before me, now Teachers, who sought after explications for the Milieu of an era, the abstract of an age.
I'm not sure what I think but I may be warming up to it. Now that that's out of the way.
Top 5 Books I couldn't live without: Unattainable Earth by Czeslaw Milosz Hackers & Painters by Paul Graham Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton The Success of Open Source by Steven Weber The Future of Ideas by Lawrence Lessig
Honorable Mentions: Selected Essays by Jerzy Kosinski The Blue Octavo Notebooks by Franz Kafka The Trial by Frans Kafka Tender is the Night OR The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
Of late, I've also really been enjoying reading Founders at Work by Jessica Livingston. If you're considering ever starting your own company or if you'd just be edified by reading about people succeeding outside the system/convention and innovating I'd highly recommend picking it up. There's also a book called Coders at Work in progress at the same publisher by a different author. That book is composed of interviews with some of the world's premiere programmers and it may find it's way onto the can't live without list. At least, I expect it will.
As my last point today, I'd like to congratulate Electronic Arts. They have successfully made the first good skateboarding video game in years. This is a huge thing for me because I love skateboarding games because I'm a big skate nerd and it's taken way too long for someone to best Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2. Honestly, what happened to you Neversoft? Anyway, I highly endorse EA Blackbox's new game skate. It's amazz-z-zing. I might need to end up getting one more game console after all. Alright, more later folks.
I was watching an interesting video this morning and had some thoughts I jotted down before class. I am reproducing them in their full, unsubstantiated, and provocative/controversial nature here. Later perhaps they will contribute to something a bit more formal. Note: The video features Simon Peyton-Jones talking about programming language evolution somewhat generally. I'd much rather him speak more about that stuff than the Haskell/STM talks he gave at OSCON. Hmm.
I promise I'll post something less disjointed and more intelligible/coherent/formal than this in the near future.
Notes: Referencing Upcoming Radical Visions Essay, Trend A: Moving Away From X86 Facet 1) Hardware.
I'm sick of people poo-pooing the "concurrency crisis". To be fair, concurrency is the straw breaking the camel's back. To maintain sustainable growth in the computer industry we're having to do, as always, radical things on the hardware side. Not as always, however, is the fact that they're forcing lots of change in software/CS at the same time.
Is Erlang brilliant? Maybe. Is Erlang fortuitous? Certainly. It is probably the best option for the concurrency problem at hand. I'm not convinced that Scala or F# compare. Or Haskell for that matter. Haskell is a different sort of win.
We need concurrency more than controlled effects through a type system at present. The need for Haskell is still further out. Still less urgent.
^That's it. We're having two different conversations trying to discuss what the more urgent issue is. It's not Erlang vs. Haskell. It's concurrency vs. limited effects.
But what of (insert professor/coder name here)? What of those that are uninformed? Hell, what about (insert coder name here). What will they do when their code is sitting around not scaling to available resources?
Tertiary snippets: Syntax is not semantics. Can we mistake it for such? Of course, but what does that look like? What is it to mistake syntax for semantics?
"That boy, does he already suspect that beauty is always elsewhere and always delusive?" - Czeslaw Milosz, New and Collected Poems, p. 284
This is the last scheduled post I'm going to write. After this, it's back to the good old days. Everything will be "Just For Fun" and I'll post what I like when I like. It's been a good experiment in generating content these past 2^4 weeks but this is the end of it. Though I do expect to have some very nerdy stuff up by Saturday. :-) No promises.
That said, I'm ending with a bang. This untitled piece from Unattainable Earth touches on many of the frequent themes of the master poet Milosz. I hope you enjoy it:
Rustling taffetas. At sunset in a park by the Prypet River. The party sets out for a walk on a path lined with flowers. The fragrance of nicotianas, phlox, and resedas. Great silence, the empty expanse of rising waters. Meanwhile the servants bring in lamps, set the table for supper. And the dining room windows lit the agaves on the lawn.
Lela, Marishka, Sophineta! Lenia, Stenia, Isia, Lilka! Is it fair that I will never talk with you In a language not disguised by etiquette As less than language and reduced to table chatter But austere and precise like a thought That attempts to embrace the poor lives of beings?
I walk about. No longer human. In a hunting outfit. Visiting our thick forests and the houses and manors. Cold borscht is served and I am abstracted With disturbing questions from the end of my century. Mainly regarding the truth, where does it come from, where is it? Mum, I was eating chicken with cucumber salad.
My pretty ones, abducted, beyond will and guilt. My awareness harrows me as well as my silence. All my life I gathered images and ideas, I learned how to travel through lost territories, But the moment between birth and disappearance Is too much, I know, for the meager word.
Strings of wild ducks fly over the Respublica's waters. Dew falls on Polish manners imported from Warsaw and Vienna. I cross the river in a dugout to the village side. Barking dogs greet me there and the bell of an Orthodox church.
What would I like to tell you? That I didn't get what I looked for: To gather all of us naked on the earthly pastures Under the endless light of suspended time Without that form which confines me as it once confined you.
Seeing the future. A diviner. In a soft merciful night. When pigweed grows on the paths of a cut-down garden And a narrow gold chain on a white neck, Together with the memory of all of you, perishes.
I feel compelled to post a translation of last week's quote from Simone Weil. It's a gorgeous quote:
"The case of true contradictions: God exists, God does not exist. I am absolutely sure that there is a God, in the sense that I am absolutely sure my love is not an illusion. I am absolutely sure that there is no God, in the sense that I am absolutely sure nothing real resembles what I can conceive when I pronounce that name. And yet something I cannot conceive is not an illusion." - Simone Weil, Unattainable Earth, p.117
"For me the principal proof of the existence of God is the joy I experience any time I think that God is." - Rene Le Senne, Unattainable Earth, p.82
I've been needing lots of Milosz lately. It's good stuff.
"How do we live on the surface pretending not to feel the terror? In this epoch which I have experienced and which has not been narrated? In this night and not any other destiny, my own, of which I think at night, unable to tell the verdict from chance. How can we be so restrained, conversing in cautious words?" - Czeslaw Milosz, Unattainable Earth, p.62
"Since my youth I have tried to capture in words a reality such as I contemplated walking the streets of a human city and I have never succeeded; that is why each of my poems seems to me the token of an unaccomplished oeuvre. I learned early that language does not adhere to what we really are, that we move in a big make-believe which is maintained by books and pages of newsprint. And every one of my efforts to say something real ended the same way, by my being driven back to the enclosure of form, as if I were a sheep straying from the flock." - Czeslaw Milosz, Unattainable Earth, p.32
"Who will assure me that I perceive the world the same way other people do? It is not improbable that I am a deviation from the norm, an oddity, a mutation, and that I have no access to what they experience. And if that is the case, what right do I have to pronounce general opinions on man, history, the difference between good and evil, society, systems; as if I did not guess that my difference, though hidden, influences my judgments, changes proportions?" - Czeslaw Milosz, Unattainable Earth, p.63
My Neruda hasn't come in the mail yet so you all are stuck with another week of Milosz. This week's poem is titled Nonadaptation.
I was not made to live anywhere except in paradise. Such, simply, was my genetic inadaptation. Here on earth every prick of a rose-thorn changed into a wound,. Whenever the sun hid behind a cloud, I grieved. I pretended to work like others from morning to evening, but I was absent, dedicated to invisible countries. For solace I escaped to city parks, there to observe and faithfully describe flowers and trees, but they changed, under my hand, into the gardens of Paradise. I have not loved a woman with my five senses. I only wanted from her my sister, from before the banishment. And I respected religion, for on this earth of pain it was a funereal and a propitiatory song.
More Milosz today. I don't know. I'd swear it's good for the soul. I also feel so...illiterate posting Milosz all the time. It's just good for me though. Anyway, I've always loved this one and it seems particularly relevant today. What do you guys think?
Temptation Under a starry sky I was taking a walk, On a ridge overlooking neon cities, With my companion, the spirit of desolation, Who was running around and sermonizing, Saying that I was not necessary, for if not I, then someone else Would be walking here, trying to understand his age. Had I died long ago nothing would have changed. The same stars, cities, and countries Would have been seen with other eyes. The world and it's labors would go on as they do.
For Christ's sake, get away from me. You've tormented me enough, I said. It's not up to me to judge the calling of men. And my merits, if any, I won't know anyway.
Today was awesome but as much as I love Borges I'm going to post some tasty Milosz tonight. More Borges next week...I promise. Or at least a different poet. :-D
Gift A day so happy. Fog lifted early, I worked in the garden. Hummingbirds were stopping over honeysuckle flowers. There was no thing on earth I wanted to possess. I knew no one worth my envying him. Whatever evil I had suffered, I forgot. To think that once I was the same man did not embarrass me. In my body I felt no pain. When straightening up, I saw the blue sea and sails.
Okay. I'm kind of going to cheat today. I was planning on moving on from Milosz after posting what are probably my three favorite poems of his and post an excerpt from Borges today. The problem is I haven't gotten around to reading the Borges. So, for now, Borges will have to wait until next week and then hopefully I'll have read it. For now, here is another Milosz poem i'm intensely fond of.
At Dawn How enduring. How we need durability. The sky before sunrise is soaked with light. Rosy color tints buildings, bridges, and the Seine. I was here when she, with whom I walk, wasn't born yet And the cities on a distant plain stood intact Before they rose in the air with the dust of sepulchral brick And the people who lived there didn't know. Only this moment at dawn is real to me. The bygone lives are like my own past life, uncertain. I cast a spell on the city asking it to last.
Livejournal hasn't let me post from my computer since late yesterday so I had to log on to a friend's computer to make a post to fix the problem. Today I'd like to share the third of (what are probably) my three favorite Milosz poems.
The pungent smells of a California winter, Grayness and rosiness, an almost transparent full moon. I add logs to the fire, I drink and I ponder.
"In Ilawa," the news item said, "at age 70 Died Aleksander Rymkiewicz, poet."
He was the youngest in our group. I patronized him slightly, Just as I patronized others for their inferior minds Though they had many virtues I couldn't touch.
And so I am here, approaching the end Of the century and of my life. Proud of my strength Yet embarrassed by the clearness of the view.
Avant-gardes mixed with blood. The ashes of inconceivable arts. An omnium-gatherum of chaos.
I passed judgment on that. Though marked myself. This hasn't been the age for the righteous and the decent. I know what it means to beget monsters And to recognize in them myself.
You, moon, You, Aleksander, fire of cedar logs. Waters close over us, a name lasts but an instant. Not important whether the generations hold us in memory. Great was that chase with the hounds for the unattainable meaning of the world.
And now I am ready to keep running When the sun rises beyond the borderlands of death.
I already see mountain ridges in the heavenly forest Where, beyond every essence, a new essence waits.
You, music of my late years, I am called By a sound and a color which are more and more perfect.
Do not die out, fire. Enter my dreams, love. Be young forever, seasons of the earth.
Another one of my favorites. This is the second Milosz poem I ever read but it's really stuck with me. I'll give the last of my three favorites next week and then move on.
3. Paradise by Czeslaw Milosz: Under my sign, Cancer, a pink fountain Pours out four streams, the sources of four rivers. But I don't trust it. As I verified myself, That sign is not lucky. Besides, we abhor The moving jaws of crabs and the calcareous Cemeteries of the ocean. This, then, is the Fountain Of Life? Toothed, sharp-edged, With its innocent, delusive color. And beneath, Just where the birds set alight, glass traps set with glue. A white elephant, a white giraffe, white unicorns, Black creatures of the ponds. A lion mauls a deer. A cat has a mouse. A three-headed lizard, A three-headed ibis, their meaning unknown. Or a two-legged dog, no doubt a bad omen. Adam sits astonished. His feet Touch the foot of Christ who has brought Eve And keeps her right hand in his left while lifting Two fingers of his right like the one who teaches. Who is she, and who will she be, the beloved From the Song of Songs? This Wisdom-Sophia, Seducer, the Mother and Ecclesia? Thus he created her who will conceive him? Where then did he get his human form Before the years and centuries began? Human, did he exist before the beginning? And establish a Paradise, though incomplete, So that she might pluck the fruit, she, the mysterious one, Whom Adam contemplates, not comprehending? I am these two, twofold. I ate from the Tree Of Knowledge. I was expelled by the archangel's sword. At night I sensed her pulse. Her mortality. And we have searched for the real place ever since.
"It happened that sometimes I kissed in mirrors the reflection of my face; since the hands, face and tears of Annalena had caressed it, my face seemed suffused to me divinely beautiful and as if suffused with heavenly sweetness." - Oscar Milosz, L'Amoreuse Initiation
I liked your velvet yoni, Annalena, long voyages in the delta of your legs. A striving upstream toward your beating heart through more and more savage currents saturated with the light of hops and bindweed. And our vehemence and triumphant laughter and our hasty dressing in the middle of the night to walk on the stone stairs of the upper city. Our breath held by amazement and silence, porosity of worn-out stones and the great door of the cathedral. Over the gate of the rectory fragments of brick among weeds, in darkness the touch of a rough buttressed wall. And later our looking from the bridge down to the orchard, when under the moon every tree is separate on its kneeler, and from the secret interior of dimmed poplars the echo carries the sound of a water turbine. To whom do we tell what happened on the earth, for whom do we place everywhere huge mirrors in the hope that they will be filled up and will stay so? Always in doubt whether it was we who were there, you and I, Annalena, or just anonymous lovers on the enameled tables of a fairyland.