By Czeslaw Milosz
Your unhappy and silly youth.
Your arrival from the provinces in the city.
Misted-over windowpanes of streetcars,
Restless misery of the crowd.
Your dread when you entered a place too expensive.
But everything was too expensive. Too high.
Those people must have noticed your crude manners,
Your outmoded clothes, and your awkwardness.
There were none who would stand by you and say,
You are a handsome boy,
You are strong and healthy,
Your misfortunes are imaginary.
You would not have envied a tenor in an overcoat of camel hair
Had you guessed his fear and known how he would die.
She, the red-haired, because of whom you suffer tortures,
So beautiful she seems to you, is a doll in fire.
You don’t understand what she screams with her lips of a clown.
The shapes of hats, the cut of robes, faces in the mirrors,
You will remember all that unclearly, as something from long ago,
Or as what remains from a dream.
The house you approach trembling,
The apartment that dazzles you–
Look, on this spot the cranes clear the rubble.
In your turn you will have, possess, secure,
Able to be proud at last, when there is no reason.
Your wishes will be fulfilled, you will gape then
At the essence of time, woven of smoke and mist,
An iridescent fabric of lives that last one day,
Which rises and falls like an unchanging sea.
Books you have read will be of use no more.
You searched for an answer but lived without answer.
You will walk in the streets of southern cities,
Restored to your beginnings, seeing again in rapture
The whiteness of a garden after the first night of snow.
(Translated, from the Polish, by Howard Gardner and Robert Hass)
From Howard Gardner’s book Creating Minds ( !993)