Saturday, October 1, 2011

Rainer Maria Rilke

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Rainer Maria Rilke
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The Fourth Elegy

Trees of life. When is your winter. Human
beings don’t cohere. Are not prompted in the blood
like migrant birds. Overtaken, late, we take off abruptly
into the wind and crash on some lost lake of ice.
To flower and to fade meet in us.
Altogether elsewhere, lions roam, unaware of weakness.

But we, intent upon one thing,
are already pulled into another. We’re
split. Aren’t lovers, ever more deeply inside each other, actually
doing solitary, confined by those cave-drawings
that promise vastness, hunting and firelight?
Elaborate gradations of background are laid down
to highlight the moment, the actual, living contour of emotion,
known only if at all by what shapes it from outside.

Who has not sat, bang to rights before the curtains of the heart.
They part; the stage is set for a farewell. You’ve been there.
The eternal garden, swaying a bit. Then the Dancer. He has to be
kidding. Music fails to disguise a jowly bourgeois, groping at midnight
in his fridge. You sad Muppet. It’s the incompleteness of deception
I can’t stomach. Give me paint, shell and wires. At least dolls are
whole. Here. I’m waiting.

And if the lights go out, and I’m told that that’s that,
even if gray drafts of emptiness are billowing towards me from the stage,
even if not a single soul among my Dead wants to sit next to me-
not that cobwebbed woman, not that boy with the motionless brown eye-
I’ll sit here anyway. It’s cool. Isn’t that right,
you, to whom life tasted so bitter after you took a sip of mine,
Father – who, as I grew up, kept on sipping, the taste of such a
strange future so disturbing- you, who have trembled so often
for my well-being since your death, relinquishing that calm
that the Dead do tend to bang on about, their loud insistence on a quiet life,
traded for my little chunk of Destiny? Hmm?

Am I right or am I right, and you others, would I be correct
in thinking you loved me
for my small beginnings of love for you from which I always
turned away because the intervals in your features grew and changed
into Cosmic Space, and you were gone? So I’ve got to do
the right thing, stay put in my seat, in front of the curtain, no,
gaze so intensely that some Angel will have to rush in from the wings
to match my offer, and jiggle those puppets into life.
Angel and Puppet. En fin de compte, a real play.

Then what we habitually keep separate, but live inside,
can merge. Then will arise from our seasonal lives the
Transformation. Altogether elsewhere, the Angel plays.
The dying must see how unreal and full of pretence everything we do is,
here where nothing is allowed to become itself.
O childhood hours, when more than the Past lay
behind Figures and streamed from the head of the Future.
Impatient to be grown-up, we felt our bodies growing,
half for the sake of those who didn’t have much left
except grown-upness. Yet were, playing by ourselves,
enchanted with duration, and would stand in blissful space
between World and Toy, at a point established from the outset
for things to happen.

Who shows the child as he is? Installs her in the zodiac
or sets the wand of distance in her hand? Who makes their death
out of grey bread that turns hard or leaves it in their open mouths,
so like the ripe applecore... Murder is easily grasped.
But, that death, death entire, and before life has even begun,
can be so softly held to the heart without turning
away from life, that is wholly inexpressible, is
something else again.



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