Reading this poem, by Czeslaw Milosz, I’m filled with gratitude for his exquisite voice, for his wisdom and vision, and the devotion with which he served what he loved throughout his long, working life. Poets are the soul-keepers of our world, and he was one of the finest.
Not soon, as late as the approach of my ninetieth year,
I felt a door opening in me and I entered
the clarity of early morning.
One after another my former lives were departing,
like ships, together with their sorrow.
And the countries, cities, gardens, the bays of seas
assigned to my brush came closer,
ready now to be described better than they were before.
I was not separated from my people,
grief and pity joined us.
We forget–I kept saying–that we are all children of the King.
For where we come from there is no division
into Yes and No, into is, was, and will be.
We were miserable, we used no more than a hundredth part
of the gift we received for our long journey.
Moments from yesterday and from centuries ago–
a sword blow, the painting of eyelashes before a mirror
of polished metal, a lethal musket shot, a caravel
staving its hull against a reef–they dwell in us,
waiting for a fulfillment.
I knew, always, that I would be a worker in the vineyard,
as are all men and women living at the same time,
whether they are aware of it or not.
–Czeslaw Milosz, Late Ripeness, from New and Collected Poems