What is poetry which does not save Nations or people?

I really never had a favorite poet.

What I’ve found in individual poems, a few collections, and sometimes (though rarely) in poets has usually been fleeting, a weapon I discover in the heat of the fight, use for the battle, and discard once my demons have been fought and retreat.

What follows this month—it’s National Poetry Month—are some of those poems.  One for every day of the month (or almost every day because I’m still working out that consistency thing).  Here goes:

from www.holocaustresearchproject.org

Czeslaw Milosz (1911 – 2004)

You whom I could not save
Listen to me.
Try to understand this simple speech as I would be ashamed of another.
I swear, there is in me no wizardry of words.
I speak to you with silence like a cloud or a tree.

What strengthened me, for you was lethal.
You mixed up farewell to an epoch with the beginning of a new one,
Inspiration of hatred with lyrical beauty;
Blind force with accomplished shape.

Here is a valley of shallow Polish rivers. And an immense bridge
Going into white fog. Here is a broken city;
And the wind throws the screams of gulls on your grave
When I am talking with you.

What is poetry which does not save
Nations or people?
A connivance with official lies,
A song of drunkards whose throats will be cut in a moment,
Readings for sophomore girls.
That I wanted good poetry without knowing it,
That I discovered, late, its salutary aim,
In this and only this I find salvation.

They used to pour millet on graves or poppy seeds
To feed thee dead who would come disguised as birds
I put this book here for you, who once lived
So that you should visit us no more.

Warsaw, 1945

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