Selected by Dan Clendenin
Czeslaw Milosz (1911–2004)
Come, Holy Spirit,
bending or not bending the grasses,
appearing or not above our heads in a tongue of flame,
at hay harvest or when they plough in the orchards or when snow
covers crippled firs in the Sierra Nevada.
I am only a man: I need visible signs.
I tire easily, building the stairway of abstraction.
Many a time I asked, you know it well, that the statue in church
lifts its hand, only once, just once, for me.
But I understand that signs must be human,
therefore call one man, anywhere on earth,
not me — after all I have some decency —
and allow me, when I look at him, to marvel at you.
Czeslaw Milosz (1911–2004) was a Polish writer, translator, and diplomat. From 1961 to 1980 he was a Professor of Slavic Languages and Literature at the University of California, Berkeley. Milosz won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1980. This poem has been anthologized in a number of places, including Collected Poems 1931–1987 (HarperCollins Publishers Inc, 1988).
Dan Clendenin: email@example.com
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