two by Rilke

I Live My Life

I live my life in growing orbs,
which move out over the things of the world.
Perhaps I can never achieve the last,
but that will be my attempt.

I am circling around God, around the ancient tower,
and I have been circling for a thousand years,
and I still don’t know if I am a falcon, or a storm,
or a great song.


A Walk

My eyes already touch the sunny hill,
going far ahead of the road I have begun.
So we are grasped by what we cannot grasp;
it has its inner light, even from a distance –

and changes us, even if we do not reach it,
into something else, which, hardly sensing it, we already are;
a gesture waves us on, answering our own wave…
but what we feel is the wind in our faces.

(translated by Robert Bly)

 

I believe in all that has never yet been spoken

I believe in all that has never yet been spoken.
I want to free what waits within me
so that what no one has dared to wish for
may for once spring clear
without my contriving.

If this is arrogant, God, forgive me,
but this is what I need to say.
May what I do flow from me like a river,
no forcing and no holding back,
the way it is with children.

Then in these swelling and ebbing currents,
these deepening tides moving out, returning,
I will sing you as no one ever has,
streaming through widening channels
into the open sea.

— Rainer Maria Rilke, Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God
(Translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy)

It’s ok for the rich

Title Poem – Rainer Maria Rilke (trans. Robert Bly)

It’s O.K. for the rich and the lucky to keep still;
no one wants to know about them anyway.
But those in need have to step forward,
have to say: I am blind,
or: I’m about to go blind,
or: nothing is going well with me,
or: I have a child who is sick,
or: right there I’m sort of glued together…

And probably that doesn’t do anything either.

They have to sing; if they didn’t sing, everyone
would walk past, as if they were fences or trees.

That’s where you hear good singing.

People really are strange: they prefer
to hear castratos in boy choirs.

But God himself comes and stays a long time
when the world of half-people start to bore him.

Rilke, from Das Stundenbuch

In this town the last house stands
as lonely as if it were the last house in the world

The highway, which the tiny town is not able to stop,
slowly goes deeper out into the night.

The tiny town is only a passing-over place,
worried and afraid, between two huge spaces –
a path running past houses instead of a bridge.

And those who leave the town wander a long way off
and many perhaps die on the road.

Photo: South Portland, Maine – December 2018

The Man Watching – Rainer Maria Rilke

I can tell by the way the trees beat, after 
so many dull days, on my worried windowpanes 
that a storm is coming, 
and I hear the far-off fields say things 
I can’t bear without a friend, 
I can’t love without a sister.

The storm, the shifter of shapes, drives on  
across the woods and across time,
and the world looks as if it had no age: 
the landscape, like a line in the psalm book,  
is seriousness and weight and eternity.

What we choose to fight is so tiny!  
What fights with us is so great.  
If only we would let ourselves be dominated
as things do by some immense storm,  
we would become strong too, and not need names.

When we win it’s with small things,  
and the triumph itself makes us small.  
What is extraordinary and eternal
does not want to be bent by us.  
I mean the Angel who appeared
to the wrestlers of the Old Testament: 
when the wrestlers’ sinews  
grew long like metal strings,  
he felt them under his fingers  
like chords of deep music.

Whoever was beaten by this Angel  
(who often simply declined the fight)  
went away proud and strengthened 
and great from that harsh hand,  
that kneaded him as if to change his shape.  
Winning does not tempt that man.  
This is how he grows: by being defeated, decisively,  
by constantly greater beings.

                –Translated by Robert Bly

(on his birthday, December 4, 1875)

Windy Day 1