I came to a love of poetry only in recent years but when I fell, I fell hard. I’d like to blame my slowness on bad teachers but the truth is that I was a particularly stubborn and thick-headed student for quite some time. I gradually lost some of my stubbornness (I’m not making any claims about the thick-headedness, though) and I found a fine guide here at Rice. For whatever reason it’s been Polish writers who I love best: Zbigniew Herbert, Adam Zagajewski, Czeslaw Milosz. So imagine my delight when I found this:
It’s Milosz himself, having lunch at Cohen House with Rice professor Ewa Thompson, sitting in a spot that seems as familiar to me as my own home. The only difficulty was that as hard as I tried, I couldn’t figure out what was going on here–there was nothing in the Thresher and I couldn’t find anything in either of the Houston papers either. So I just kind of forgot about it.
I was cleaning out my office not long ago and came upon a stack of old issues of a now defunct Rice newspaper called On Campus. (Yes, I have things like that in my office.) In the middle of the stack I found the story:
I meant to post it right away, but–as sometimes happens to me–I got distracted and forgot about it again. But today, in the Half-Price Book Store on Westheimer, a volume of Milosz’s poems, Provinces, all but fell into my hand. Here’s the first one in the book, called “Blacksmith Shop:”
I liked the bellows operated by rope.
A hand or foot pedal—I don’t remember which.
But that blowing, and the blazing of the fire!
And a piece of iron in the fire, held there by tongs,
Red, softened for the anvil,
Beaten with a hammer, bent into a horseshoe,
Thrown in a bucket of water, sizzle, steam.
And horses hitched to be shod,
Tossing their manes; and in the grass by the river
Plowshares, sledge runners, harrows waiting for repair
At the entrance, my bare feet on the dirt floor,
Here, gusts of heat; at my back, white clouds.
I stare and stare. It seems I was called for this:
To glorify things just because they are.