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I first read Czeslaw Milosz while hiding out in Krynica spa in southern Poland at a hotel called Paradiso. I read him again now while hiding out on the twelfth floor – 12F. Milosz encountered strong headwinds through his long life, especially during the Warsaw years. He wouldn’t mind, I’m sure, if I borrow from the ballast he acquired after enduring those hopeless-seeming and other woebegone gales.

A Song on the End of the World
by
Czeslaw Milosz
On the day the world ends
A bee circles a clover,
A fisherman mends a glimmering net.
Happy porpoises jump in the sea,
By the rainspout young sparrows are playing
And the snake is gold-skinned as it should always be.
 
On the day the world ends
Women walk through the fields under their umbrellas,
A drunkard grows sleepy at the edge of a lawn,
Vegetable peddlers shout in the street
And a yellow-sailed boat comes nearer the island,
The voice of a violin lasts in the air
And leads into a starry night.
 
And those who expected lightning and thunder
Are disappointed.
And those who expected signs and archangels’ trumps
Do not believe it is happening now.
As long as the sun and the moon are above,
As long as the bumblebee visits a rose,
As long as rosy infants are born
No one believes it is happening now.
 
Only a white-haired old man, who would be a prophet
Yet is not a prophet, for he’s much too busy,
Repeats while he binds his tomatoes:
There will be no other end of the world,
There will be no other end of the world.
Warsaw, 1944
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