I’ve loved the poetry of Czesław Miłosz since a friend gave me a slim collection of his poems over a decade ago. Especially searing are the poems he composed amidst and about the Warsaw Uprising as a sympathetic Catholic outsider. Even after coming to the United States, Miłosz composed his verse primarily in Polish, often collaborating on the translations. This poem comes from his final collection, Second Space.
Hear me, Lord, for I am a sinner, which means I have nothing except prayer.
Protect me from the day of dryness and impotence.
When neither a swallow’s flight nor peonies, daffodils and irises in the flower market are a sign of Your glory.
When I will be surrounded by scoffers and unable, against their arguments, to remember any miracle of Yours.
When I will seem to myself an impostor and swindler because I take part in religious rites.
When I will accuse You of establishing the universal law of death.
When I am ready at last to bow down to nothingness and call life on earth a devil’s vaudeville.