Friday, April 17, 2009

"Esse" by Czeslaw Milosz

I looked at that face, dumbfounded. The lights of metro stations flew by; I didn't notice them. What can be done, if our sight lack 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 a bird? A slightly snub nose, a high brow with sleekly brushed-back hair, the line of the chin - by 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 the 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 betong which no power can attain: I am, she is. Shout, blow the trumpets, make thousand-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.

Brie-Comte-Robert, 1954

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