A tall building. The walls crept upward in the dark,
Above the rustle of maple leaves, above hurrying feet.
A tall building, dawning with its lights above the square.
Inside hissing softly in the predawn hours,
The elevator moved between the floors. The cables twanged.
A rooster's cry rang in the pipes and gutters
Till a shiver ran through the house. Those awakened heard
This singing in the walls, terrible as the earth's happiness.
Already the screech of a tram. And day. And smoke again.
Oh, the day is dark. Above us, who are shut
High up in our rooms, flocks of birds
Fly by in a whir of flickering wings.
Not enough. One life is not enough.
I'd like to live twice on this sad planet,
In lonely cities, in starved villages,
To look at all evil, at the decay of bodies,
And probe the laws to which the time was subject,
Time that howled above us like a wind.
In the courtyard of the apartment house street musicians
Croon in chorus. The hands of listeners shine at the windows.
She gets up from her rumpled sheets.
In her dreams she thought of dresses and travel.
She walks up to the black mirror. Youth didn't last long.
Nobody knew that work would divide a day
Into great toil and dead rest,
And that the moon would pause every spring
Above the sleep of the weary ones. In our hearts' heavy beating
No spring for us anymore, nor love.
To cover up one's thighs. Let them not,
With their lacing of thin purple veins, remember
This child rushing down the staircase,
This child running down the gray sidewalk.
Laughter can still be heard in the distance --
Anew, everything the child will discover anew
And down an immense, empty, frosty road
Through a space ringing with the thunder of the pulse
Her child will go. And time will howl.
Standing naked in front of her mirror, the woman
Lightly wipes away two tears with her kerchief
And darkens her eyebrows with henna.
Excerpted from Selected Poems by Czeslaw Milosz Copyright © 2006 by Czeslaw Milosz. Excerpted by permission.
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