Saturday, July 16, 2011

to leave even one's own first name behind





.


Of course, it is strange to inhabit the earth no longer,
to give up customs one barely had time to learn, 
not to see roses and other promising Things
in terms of a human future; no longer to be
what one was in infinitely anxious hands; to leave
even one's own first name behind, forgetting it
as easily as a child abandons a broken toy.
Strange to no longer desire one's desires.  Strange 
to see meanings that clung together once, floating away
in every direction.  And being dead is hard work
and full of retrieval before one can gradually feel
a trace of eternity. - Though the living are wrong to believe
in the too-sharp distinctions which they themselves have created.
Angels (they say) don't know whether it is the living 
they are moving among, or the dead.  The eternal torrent
whirls all ages along in it, through both realms
forever, and their voices are drowned out in its thunderous roar.



~ Rainer Maria Rilke
from Duino Elegies, The first Elegy
translation by Stephen Mitchell
art by Matisse



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