“After Paradise”

“After Paradise” February 15, 2011

As I wrote yesterday’s post in honor of my main squeeze, I was feeling a little nostalgic…and feeling that we needed a new poem (it only took me seven weeks after Christmas to take down “Mary’s Song”…pregnancy is a good enough excuse, right?). We haven’t had a good love poem for our memories yet. And so, I’ve picked the poem that was read at our wedding, one that I should seriously memorize simply because of its role in my marital sweetness.

Today is Thankful Tuesday and so I present to you (with a thankful heart) one of my favorite poems by Csezlaw Milosz:


After Paradise

Don’t run any more. Quiet. How softly it rains
On the roofs of the city. How perfect
All things are. Now, for the two of you
Waking up in a royal bed by a garret window.
For a man and a woman. For one plant divided
Into masculine and feminine which longed for each other.
Yes, this is my gift to you. Above ashes
On a bitter, bitter earth. Above the subterranean
Echo of clamorings and vows. So that now at dawn
You must be attentive: the tilt of a head,
A hand with a comb, two faces in a mirror
Are only forever once, even if unremembered,
So that you watch what it is, though it fades away,
And are grateful every moment for your being.
Let that little park with greenish marble busts
In the pearl-gray light, under a summer drizzle,
Remain as it was when you opened the gate.
And the street of tall peeling porticos
Which this love of yours suddenly transformed.


I can list the million reasons why I adore this poem, why I chose it to be the first words read in our ceremony almost seven year ago. The images! The fact that it begins with a command: “Don’t run anymore.” That acceptance of commitment. The description of the one plant divided, longing for each other. I love that “above ashes / On a bitter, bitter earth,” above the “echo / of clamorings and vows,” the beauty that is given as a gift to this couple is the moment of the simple, daily task, normal life: “the tilt of a head, / A hand with a comb, two faces in a mirror.”

I’ve always felt that my favorite and most honest moments with Chris are those we spend brushing our teeth, flossing, washing faces before the same mirror. And I love Milosz’s statement that in the small moment in the mirror we “are only forever once.” We are fading. We are changing. Aging is beautiful but it’s also undoable and troubling. And so Milosz calls us to a moment of gratefulness: There we are in a park, in this hopeful, yet disconcerting “pearl-gray light,” opening a gate, into a present moment.

What is love if it’s not gratefulness? I want to memorize this poem because every night I’m given to floss my teeth beside this man, I want to hold with grateful hands.

Memorize it with me?



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