Encounter by Czeslaw Milosz
MARGINALIA • SKIP TO THE POEM
Dear self: today you turn thirty-one. Do you feel that? Do you feel your bones adjusting to the weight around your body, to the soul you carry? And have you found out what it meant, to want to be here?
Another year older. I’m not very sure we’re wiser for it, but we definitely have made some choices, haven’t we. Yes we did. Perhaps that’s the thing—to continue making decisions that spur your life inch by inch towards some direction. It doesn’t even have to mean forward or backward, because didn’t we say we’ll try to live spherically, in many directions? Didn’t we say: moving without leaving, and didn’t we do exactly that this past year?
Where are we going, self? Where will our feet take us, where will our mind lead us, where will our body agree to go? What are we willing to embrace this year? And do you feel that, the apprehension that murmurs in your chest like a fluttering bird, the uncertainty that makes you weak in the knees? And will you go anyway?
Have you forgiven yourself for it, the fuck-ups, the constant undoing and redoing? Have you accepted that you will always lose something, and when that happens, the question to ask is: and what have I gained?
Last year you said: Be good, forgive, exist. The year before that: I think maybe it’s time to be found. The year before that: You’re not alone. The year before that: It takes courage to live.
Do you hear it, all the echoes of your past selves trying to tell you that you are loved? The unknown yawns before us, and yes, maybe we’ll fuck it up. And maybe we won’t.
Happy birthday, old fool.
Translated by Czeslaw Milosz and Lillian Vallee
We were riding through frozen fields in a wagon at dawn.
A red wing rose in the darkness.
And suddenly a hare ran across the road.
One of us pointed to it with his hand.
That was long ago. Today neither of them is alive,
Not the hare, nor the man who made the gesture.
O my love, where are they, where are they going
The flash of a hand, streak of movement, rustle of pebbles.
I ask not out of sorrow, but in wonder.
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This poem appeared in The Collected Poems of Czeslaw Milosz, published by Ecco, 1988. Shared here with profound gratitude.
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