I am too alone in the world…

I am too alone in the world, and not alone enough
to make every minute holy.
I am too tiny in this world, and not tiny enough
Just to lie before you like a thing,
shrewd and secretive.
I want my own will, and I want simply to be with my will,
as it goes toward action,
and in the silent, sometimes hardly moving times
when something is coming near.
I want to be with those who know secret things
or else alone.
I want to be a mirror for your whole body,
and I never want to be blind, or to be too old
to hold up your heavy and swaying picture.
I want to unfold.
I don’t want to stay folded anywhere,
because where I am folded, there I am a lie.
And I want my grasp of things
true before you. I want to describe myself
like a painting that I looked at
closely for a long time,
like a saying that I finally understood,
like the pitcher I use every day,
like the face of my mother
like a ship
that took me safely
through the wildest storm of all.

If we surrendered…

II, 16
How surely gravity’s law,
strong as an ocean current,
takes hold of even the strongest thing
and pulls it toward the heart of the world.
Each thing –
each stone, blossom, child –
is held in place.
Only we, in our arrogance,
push out beyond what we belong to
for some empty freedom.
If we surrendered
to earth’s intelligence
we could rise up rooted, like trees.
Instead we entangle ourselves
in knots of our own making
and struggle, lonely and confused.
So, like children, we begin again
to learn from the things,
because they are in God’s heart;
they have never left him.
This is what the things can teach us:
to fall,
patiently to trust our heaviness.
Even a bird has to do that
before he can fly.
~ Rainer Maria Rilke ~
(Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God,
translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy)

The Man Watching

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 like 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 wrestler’s 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 to 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.

Rainer Maria rilke

If only once

If only once it were still. 
If the “not quite right” and the “why this”
Could be muted, and the neighbor’s laughter,
And the static my senses make–
If all of it didn’t keep me from coming awake–

Then in one vast thousandfold thought
I could think you up to where thinking ends.

I could possess you,
Even for the brevity of a smile,
To offer you
To all that lives,
In gladness.

Rilke’s Book of Hours

The Great Song

Even though the world changes like cloud formations
all that is fulfilled returns home to the changeless One.
Above all the turning and changing
wider and freer, remains Your Song,
God with the lyre, God with the heart.

Sufferings have not been learned, 
loving has not really been learned, 
and what separates us in death
has not been unveiled.  
But the Great Song above the earth 
hallows and celebrates it all.

– Rainer Maria Rilke, trans. Br. David Steindl-Rast

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