Thursday, March 17, 2011

like a holy face held in my dark hands

Lord, the great cities are lost and rotting.
Their time is running out...
The people there live harsh and heavy,
crowded together, weary of their own routines.

Beyond them waits and breathes your earth,
but where they are it cannot reach them.

Their children waste their days
on doorsteps, always in the same shadow.
They don't know that somewhere 
wind is blowing through a field of flowers.

The young girls have only strangers to parade before,
and no one sees them truly;
so, chilled,
they close.

And in back rooms they live out the nagging years 
of disappointed motherhood.  Their dying is long
and hard to finish:  hard to surrender
what you never received.

Their exit has no grace or mystery.
It's a little death, hanging dry and measly
like a fruit inside them that never ripened.

III, 4/5

God, give us each our own death,
the dying that proceeds 
from each of our lives:
the way we loved,
the meanings we made,
our need.

III, 6

For we are only the rind and the leaf.

The great death, that each of us carries inside,
is the fruit.

Everything enfolds it.


I thank you, deep power
that works me ever more lightly
in ways I can't make out.
The day's labor grows simple now,
and like a holy face
held in my dark hands.

I, 62

~ Rainer Maria Rilke
excerpts from The Book of Poverty and Death
translation by anita barrows and joanna macy