“Blacksmith Shop”, by Czeslaw Milosz

This was one of the first Milosz poems I heard, and quite possibly the one that hooked me. I like the link between childhood and vocation — especially in a time and place where childhood is considered to be far removed from what you ought to do when you grow up.

Blacksmith Shop

I liked the bellows operated by rope.
A hand or a foot pedal – I don’t remember.
But that blowing and blazing of fire!
And a piece of iron in the fire, held there by tongs,
Red, softened, ready for the anvil,
Beaten with a hammer, bent into a horseshoe,
Thrown in a bucket of water, sizzle, steam.

And horses hitched to be shod,
Tossing their manes; and in the grass by the river
Plowshares, sledge runners, harrows waiting for repair.

At the entrance, my bare feet on the dirt floor,
Here, gusts of heat; at my back, white clouds,
I stare and stare. It seems I was called for this:
To glorify things just because they are.


“Blacksmith Shop”, from Provinces: Poems 1987-91, by Czeslaw Milosz, translated from the Polish by the author and Leonard Nathan

Originally published at culture-making.com.

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