Clouds and Trees

"Nothing ever goes away enough or arrives enough,/ and I want to cry when I think of my heart,/ muscle pounding in muscle, greedy always for joy." – 'A Warning', Eric Anderson

Category: Prose-Poetry

Favorite Poem of the Day – “Esse” by Czeslaw Milosz

I realized just now that I’ve never posted this poem, the last line of which was the original tagline for this blog. It is my favorite poem of all time.

I found this in Czeslaw Milosz’s (Cheh-shwah Mee-lohsh is my impression of how to pronounce it) Nobel Prize portfolio. Milosz is a polish poet who is particularly fond of attempting to describe the indescribable nature of things. He is astonishingly successful at this hilariously ironic enterprise, and captures absolute beauty as he does it. I love him because he has come closer to describing anything than anyone I’ve ever read.

As a lure into more of his work I’m going to quote the last couple lines of his poem “Earth Again” which I read in his book “Unattainable Earth”. These are the lines that first made Milosz one of my favorite writers of all time.

“…for a short moment there is no death
And time does not unreel like a skein of yarn
Thrown into an abyss.”

Also search youtube for videos of him speaking/reading if you want an example of a great poet voice.

If you’re interested in other Polish poets check out Zbigniew Herbert.

Esse

I looked at that face, dumbfounded. The lights of métro stations flew by; I didn’t notice them. What can be done, if our sight lacks absolute power to devour objects ecstatically, in an instant, leaving nothing more than the void of an ideal form, a sign like a hieroglyph simplified from the drawing of an animal or bird? A slightly snub nose, a high brow with sleekly brushed-back hair, the line of the chin – but why isn’t the power of sight absolute? – and in a whiteness tinged with pink two sculpted holes, containing a dark, lustrous lava. To absorb that face but to have it simultaneously against the background of all spring boughs, walls, waves, in its weeping, its laughter, moving it back fifteen years, or ahead thirty. To have. It is not even a desire. Like a butterfly, a fish, the stem of a plant, only more mysterious. And so it befell me that after so many attempts at naming the world, I am able only to repeat, harping on one string, the highest, the unique avowal beyond which no power can attain: I am, she is. Shout, blow the trumpets, make thousands-strong marches, leap, rend your clothing, repeating only: is!

She got out at Raspail. I was left behind with the immensity of existing things. A sponge, suffering because it cannot saturate itself; a river, suffering because reflections of clouds and trees are not clouds and trees.

Jokes

A horse walks into a bar and the bartender doesn’t even like horses because of something to do with the length of their faces but his daughter is giving him those eyes and he groans like, “not those eyes!” and later when the bar closes they take the horse home.

In this one dimension, the big bang occurs in such a way that the universe is a bar and everything walks into it.

Osama Bin Laden walks into a bar and the special forces throw everyone’s bodies into the ocean.

A boy, a bear, a piglet, a tiger, a rabbit, and a donkey all walk into a bar, mess the place up, and pay in honey.

God walks into a bar and Jesus is already there and there’s this Awkward Silence.

A serial killer walks into a bar and kills everybody.

A bar walks into a bar.

A bar walks in on a bar and it’s uncomfortable and the first bar doesn’t know what to say and just closes the door.

A man and a woman walk into a bar and then later out of a bar.

Sisyphus pushes a bar all the way up a hill and when he is about to walk into the bar it rolls back down again.

A psychotic maniac charges into a bar but is very well spoken and makes a lot of friends. Later they’re all into regime change.

God kills himself in the bathroom of a bar and all of time is spent piecing him together.

War is in a bar and never leaves because a genie keeps refilling its glass.

A bomb goes off in a bar and destroys everything and your philosopher friends are like, “Well, what really is ‘a place’?”

The wind blows into a bar and Dawn is in the back spinning a frisbee on her fingers.