The Soul and The Body on The Beach

Anna Swir
Translated from the Polish by Czesław Miłosz & Leonard Nathan

The soul on the beach
studies a textbook of philosophy.
The soul asks the body:
Who bound us together?
The body says:
Time to tan the knees.

The soul asks the body:
Is it true
that we do not really exist?
The body says:
I’m tanning my knees.

The soul asks the body,
Where will the dying begin,
in you or in me?
The body laughed,
It tanned its knees.

Until further notice Poetry Daily will devote Wednesdays to What Keeps Us, an impromptu series featuring poems that sustain and uplift through trying times. Each poem is accompanied with an image by author-illustrator Juana Medina ( We thank you for reading and hope that you will share poems with your friends and neighbors. Please be well.

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Anna Swir (Świrszczyńska) was born in Warsaw in 1909, the daughter of an impoverished painter. During World War II she was part of the Polish Resistance and wrote for underground publications. She died of cancer in 1984.

Czesław Miłosz was born in Lithuania in 1911 and lived in Poland until 1951, when he was granted asylum in France. He was the author of dozens of books, including the poetry books Facing the River and Collected Poems, and the prose volumes A Year of the Hunter and Beginning with My Streets. He received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1980, and taught at the University of California, Berkeley from 1961 to 1998. He died in Kraków in 2004.

Leonard Nathan was the author of nine volumes of poetry, including Returning Your Call, which was a finalist for the National Book Award. The recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship, the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award for poetry, and many other awards and honors, he was an avid bird watcher. He died in 2007.

Port Townsend, Washington

“The poems delight in all things physical, painting a passionate picture of the soul as a reified, pulsating entity that argues with the body.”
San Francisco Review

Talking to My Body is an extremely rewarding book... Her best poems are so original as to deliver that mild shock we've come to recognize as real poetry.”
Boston Book Review

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