At a certain age
We wanted to confess our sins but there were no takers.
White clouds refused to accept them, and the wind
was too busy visiting sea after sea.
We did not succeed in interesting the animals.
Dogs, disappointed, expected an order,
A cat, as always immoral, was falling asleep.
A person seemingly very close
Did not care to hear of things long past.
Conversations with friends over vodka or coffee
Ought not to be prolonged beyond the first sign of boredom. It would be humiliating to pay by the hour
A man with a diploma, just for listening.
Churches. Perhaps churches. But to confess there what?
That we used to see ourselves as handsome and noble
Yet later in our place an ugly toad
Half-opens its thick eyelid
And one sees clearly: “That’s me.”
(Translated from the Polish by the author and Robert Hass)
There’s no one quite like Milosz, is there? The quiet patience of that voice, the sense of serenity bordering on wisdom. Milosz knows that you don’t have to be clever or breathless to write a great poem, all you have to do is let your heart be worn to a stone like stillness, and then speak from it without artifice or ornament.