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Published: Thu Jul 1 2010
Eva Lundsager, Were now like (detail), 2021, oil on canvas
from The World

after Czeslaw Milosz

(2) The Gate**

Wild pigeons have covered its lantern completely, but it held
once, the light of a summer evening. The blue

glow of an eye opened under water.  Something you have to keep
seeing. Now, dogs and loaves of bread block the gate. Eat both.
Coo at both until it’s not a gate; it’s a harp strung with your hair. Play

a distant song, or a song, at least, of distance. The touch of your hands
can polish even this ’til it shines with the shock of birds.

(5) The Stairs**

At first glance, tusks. The curved steps
narrowed as mother
dragged down her enormous shadow.
My foot, a boar’s head, struggled
slowly at the base of the steps.

If you place your shoe crosswise,
it becomes something like dust.

With the first step I smashed
the face of the boar. Mother
sniffed. The curved steps
flickered. The boar’s head
had been once so
alive, and the steps smelled
of wax, not her robe
tied at the waist, not
her tall walk


The World is a series of twenty poems written by Milosz in Warsaw in 1944. “(2) The Gate” and “(5) The Stairs” are selections from a corresponding response/adaptation written using Milosz’s titles.

M. R. B. Chelko is an instructor at The University of New Hampshire and an editorial assistant for the unbound poetry journal Tuesday; An Art Project. Her poems have appeared in Portland Review, Fourteen Hills, Clementine Magazine, and elsewhere. What to Tell the Sleeping Babies, her first chapbook, is available from sunnyoutside press. (updated 6/2010)

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