And the City Stood in Its Brightness – Czeslaw Milosz

 

(translated by Czeslaw Milosz and Peter Dale Scott)

And the city stood in its brightness when years later I returned,
And life was running out, Ruteboeuf’s or Villon’s,
Descendants already born were dancing their dances,
Women looked in their mirrors, made from a new metal,
What was it all for, if I cannot speak?
She stood above me, head like the earth on its axis,
My ashes were laid in a can under the bistro counter,

And the city stood in its brightness when years later I returned,
To my home in the display case of a granite museum
Beside eyelash mascara, alabaster vials, and menstruation girdles of an Egyptian princess,
There was only a sun forged out of gold plate,
On darkening parquetry the creep of unhurried steps,

And the city stood in its brightness when years later I returned,
My face covered with a coat though now no one was left
Of those who could have remembered my debts never paid,
My shames not forever, base deeds to be forgiven.
And the city stood in its brightness when years later I returned.

(1963)

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