1. Dedication


    You whom I could not save
    Listen to me.
    Try to understand this simple speech as I would be ashamed of another.
    I swear, there is in me no wizardry of words.
    I speak to you with silence like a cloud or a tree.

    What strengthened me, for you was lethal.
    You mixed up farewell to an epoch with the beginning of a new one,
    Inspiration of hatred with lyrical beauty;
    Blind force with accomplished shape.

    Here is a valley of shallow Polish rivers. And an immense bridge
    Going into white fog. Here is a broken city;
    And the wind throws the screams of gulls on your grave
    When I am talking with you.

    What is poetry which does not save
    Nations or people?
    A connivance with official lies,
    A song of drunkards whose throats will be cut in a moment,
    Readings for sophomore girls.
    That I wanted good poetry without knowing it,
    That I discovered, late, its salutary aim,
    In this and only this I find salvation.

    They used to pour millet on graves or poppy seeds
    To feed the dead who would come disguised as birds.
    I put this book here for you, who once lived
    So that you should visit us no more.

    Warsaw, 1945

  2. You whom I could not save
    Listen to me.

    —Czeslaw Milosz

  3. Forget the suffering
    You caused others.
    Forget the suffering
    Others caused you.
    The waters run and run,
    Springs sparkle and are done,
    You walk the earth you are forgetting.

    Sometimes you hear a distant refrain.
    What does it mean, you ask, who is singing?
    A childlike sun grows warm.
    A grandson and a great-grandson are born.
    You are led by the hand once again.

    The names of the rivers remain with you.
    How endless those rivers seem!
    Your fields lie fallow,
    The city towers are not as they were.
    You stand at the threshold mute.

    —Czeslaw Milosz

Sine Qua Non

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