Czeslaw Milosz read his poem, “Encounter,” in Polish. Next, he
climbed into the wooden wagon of English and read it again.
Then he recited the words in sign language, pulling on the rein
of the lines and tightening the iron bits in our mouths. At the
end, he pointed at the sky and then at the ground. After that,
he tapped on the podium in Morse code. The horse’s hooves
clopped; the hare dashed. Milosz read the poem once more in
complete silence to an empty auditorium. As an encore, he took
off his hat, an old cloth one, and pulled a rabbit from it. The
rabbit ran a little way on the stage, then stopped and looked back.
I was late reaching the dais.
The ballroom quickly emptied
down to rows of straight-backed chairs
and the chandeliers in the carpet’s pattern.
I could have followed your voice,
joined the throng of your admirers,
and threaded the gray in their beards.
I might have sent your famous name
tumbling backward down the curving
stairwell of the final hotel.
in the revolving door.
to ask for directions
to the corner of Laurel and Main.
into your house and
slumped in your favorite chair.
Held your head with my hand
in the room where you are no one.
Written this poem at the same time as you.
Bill Rector is a gastroenterologist. His poetry has been published in a variety of journals, including Amerika, Field, Hotel, and Prairie Schooner. His first book, bill, is available through Proem Press. Rector has also written Lost Moth, a chapbook about the loss of his daughter. contact