Lessons — Czeslaw Milosz

Since that moment when in a house with low eaves A doctor from the town […]

David Zahl / 2.8.11

Since that moment when in a house with low eaves
A doctor from the town cut the navel-string
And pears dotted with white mildew
Reposed in their nests of luxuriant weeds,
I have been in the hands of humans. They could have strangled
My first scream, squeezed with a giant hand
The defenseless throat that aroused their tenderness

From them I received the names of plants and birds,
I lived in their country that was not too barren,
Not too cultivated, with a field, a meadow,
And water in a boat moored behind a shed.

Their lessons met, it is true, with a barrier
Deep in myself and my will was dark,
Not very compliant with their intents or mine.
Others, whom I did not know or knew only by name,
Were pacing in me and I, terrified,
Heard, in myself, locked creaky rooms
That one should not peep into through a keyhole.
They did not mean much to me — Kazimir, Hrehory
Or Emilia or Margareta.
But I had to reenact all by myself
Every flaw and sin of theirs. This humiliated me.
So that I want to shout: you are to blame
For my not being what I want and being what I am.

Sunlight would fall in my book upon Original Sin.
And more than once, when noon was humming in the grass
I would imagine the two of them, with my guilt,
Trampling a wasp beneath the apple tree in Eden.

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