“On Angels” by Czeslaw Milosz

All was taken away from you: white dresses,
wings, even existence.
Yet I believe you,
messengers.

There, where the world is turned inside out,
a heavy fabric embroidered with stars and beasts,
you stroll, inspecting the trustworthy seams.

Short is your stay here:
now and then at a matinal hour, if the sky is clear,
in a melody repeated by a bird,
or in the smell of apples at the close of day
when the light makes the orchards magic.

They say somebody has invented you
but to me this does not sound convincing
for the humans invented themselves as well.

The voice — no doubt it is a valid proof,
as it can belong only to radiant creatures,
weightless and winged (after all, why not?),
girdled with the lightning.

I have heard that voice many a time when asleep
and, what is strange, I understood more or less
an order or an appeal in an unearthly tongue:
day draws near
another one
do what you can.

– Czeslaw Milosz as printed in Risking Everything: 110 Poems of Love and Revelation (Harmony Press), edited by Roger Housden.

10 thoughts on ““On Angels” by Czeslaw Milosz

  1. Pierre

    What an opening! And to move from that devastation to such a radiant end—“day draws near. another one—do what you can.” Thanks not just for this one but for all, Christine.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Honestly Maureen, I’ve seen it both ways (from respected sources on both sides). And both ways work when taken in context. I really should check the original next time I’m at the library. I have Roger’s hard copy somewhere too I’ll find later.

        If a kind reader has a Milosz anthology and can verify either way, I’d be grateful for an email or a comment.

        I rather like the mystery though. Especially fitting with angels. ❤️

        Like

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