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with Jesus

Czeslaw Milosz (1911–2004)

Veni, Creator

Come, Holy Spirit,   

bending or not bending the grasses,   

appearing or not above our heads in a tongue of flame,   

at hay harvest or when they plough in the orchards or when snow   

covers crippled firs in the Sierra Nevada.   

I am only a man: I need visible signs.   

I tire easily, building the stairway of abstraction.   

Many a time I asked, you know it well, that the statue in church   

lifts its hand, only once, just once, for me.   

But I understand that signs must be human,   

therefore call one man, anywhere on earth,   

not me—after all I have some decency—   

and allow me, when I look at him, to marvel at you.   

Berkeley, 1961

Czeslaw Milosz (1911-2004) was a Polish writer, translator, and diplomat. From 1961 to 1980 he was a Professor of Slavic Languages and Literature at the University of California, Berkeley. Milosz won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1980. This poem has been anthologized in a number of places, including Collected Poems 1931-1987 (HarperCollins Publishers Inc, 1988).

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