Friday, September 02, 2005

Spider by Czeslaw Milosz

The thread with which he landed stuck to the bottom of the bathtub
And he desperately tries to walk on the glossy white
But not one of his thrashing legs gets a hold
On that surface so unlike anything in Nature.
I do not like spiders. Between me and them there is enmity.
I have read a lot about their habits
Which are loathsome to me. In a web
I have seen the quick run, a lethal stabbing
With poison that, in some species,
Is dangerous also for us. Now I take a look
And leave him there. Instead of running water
To end this unpleasantness. For, after all, what can we,
People, do except not to harm?
Not to pour toxic powder on the road of marching ants,
Save stupid moths rushing to the light
By putting a windowpane between them and the kerosene lamp
By which I used to write. Name this at last,
I tell myself: Reluctance to think to the end
Is lifesaving for the living. Could lucid consciousness
Bear everything that in every minute,
Simultaneously, occurs on the earth?
Not to harm. Stop eating fish and meat.
Let oneself be castrated, like Tiny, a cat innocent
Of the drownings of kittens every day in our city.

The Cathari were right: Avoid the sin of conception
(For either you kill your seed and will be tormented by conscience
Or you will be responsible for a life of pain).

My house has two bathrooms. I leave the spider
In an unused tub and go back to my work
Which consists in building diminutive boats
More wieldy and speedy than those in our childhood,
Good for sailing beyond the borderline of time.

Next day I see my spider:
Dead, rolled into a black dot on the glittering white.

I think with envy of the dignity that befell Adam
Before whom creatures of field and forest paraded
To receive names from him. How much he was elevated
Above everything that runs and flies and crawls.

Translated by the author and Robert Hass


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