Guest poem submitted by Prashant Paul:
(Poem #1883) To Raja Rao
Raja, I wish I knew the cause of that malady. For years I could not accept the place I was in. I felt I should be somewhere else. A city, trees, human voices lacked the quality of presence. I would live by the hope of moving on. Somewhere else there was a city of real presence, of real trees and voices and friendship and love. Link, if you wish, my peculiar case (on the border of schizophrenia) to the messianic hope of my civilization. Ill at ease in the tyranny, ill at ease in the republic, in the one I longed for freedom, in the other for the end of corruption. Building in my mind a permanent polis forever deprived of aimless bustle. I learned at last to say: this is my home, here, before the glowing coal of ocean sunsets, on the shore which faces the shores of your Asia, in a great republic, moderately corrupt. Raja, this did not cure me of my guilt and shame. A shame of failing to be what I should have been. The image of myself grows gigantic on the wall and against it my miserable shadow. That's how I came to believe in Original Sin which is nothing but the first victory of the ego. Tormented by my ego, deluded by it I give you, as you see, a ready argument. I hear you saying that liberation is possible and that Socratic wisdom is identical with your guru's. No, Raja, I must start from what I am. I am those monsters which visit my dreams and reveal to me my hidden essence. If I am sick, there is no proof whatsoever that man is a healthy creature. Greece had to lose, her pure consciousness had to make our agony only more acute. We needed God loving us in our weakness and not in the glory of beatitude. No help, Raja, my part is agony, struggle, abjection, self-love, and self-hate, prayer for the Kingdom and reading Pascal.
(Berkeley, 1969 ) I stumbled upon this poem(and Milosz) when searching for the writer Raja Rao. By far one of the most brilliant that I have read, and it brings forth the best of Milosz. (Raja Rao was a great Indian writer, and with R. K. Narayan and Mulk Raj Anand considered one of the trinity of Indian writers in english.) To me some of the elements of the poem come from the time Milosz spent his time at Berkeley away from his native place Poland, like the first part. But the poem is also an accurate description of the struggle with the present, and the hope for a change that changes everything. Two striking ideas -- original sin and "...I must start from where I am...", I really love the way they are written here. An absolutely amazing poem in my book. Prashant.