Thursday, September 8, 2011

Pondering Rilke

The stories of 9/11/2001 are being shared this week as we memorialize the loss of lives, and the reality of our country being plunged into a decade of uncertainty. Uncertainty, that has always been with us even when we are not aware of its bitter presence. Tonight I offer a poem from Rilke's Book of Hours: Love Poems to God along with a few images from Ireland. I reflect on the poem and wonder whether I am open to God's transforming presence in the suffering that continues as our we continue to face genocide, war, poverty, racism, sexism, disease and indifference. The suffering that occupies spaces even greater than a date of remembrance, this suffering occupies the empty spaces of our lives and offers the opportunity to reach out toward change, or continue in the foggy state of illusion.

I'm still the one who knelt before you
in monks' robes, wanting to be of use.
You filled him as he called you into being--
a voice from a quiet cell
with the world blowing past.
An you are ever again the wave
sweeping through all things.

That's all there is. Only an ocean
where now and again islands appear.
That's all there is: no harps, no angels.
And the one before whom all things bow
is the one without a voice.

Are you, then, the All? and I the separated one
who tumbles and rages?
Am I not the whole? Am I not all things
when I weep, and you the single one, who hears it?

Listen--don't you hear something?
Aren't there voices other than mine?
Is that a storm? I am one also,
whipping the trees to call to you.

 Are you distracted from hearing me
by some whining little tune?
That's mine as well--hear mine as well;
it's lonely and unheard.

I'm the one who's been asking you--
it hurts to ask--Who are you?
I am orphaned 
each time the sun goes down.
I can feel cast out from everything
and even churches look like prisons.

That's when I want you--
you knower of my emptiness,
you unspeaking partner to my sorrow--
that's when I need you, God, like food.

Maybe you don't know what the nights are like
for people who can't sleep.
They all feel guilty--
the old man, the young woman, the child.
They're driven through the darkness as though condemned,
their pale hands writhing; they're twisted
like a pack of frenzied hounds.

What's past lies still ahead,
and the future is finished.
They see not the faintest glimmer of morning
and listen in vain for the cock's crow.
The night is a huge house
where doors torn open by terrified hands
lead into endless corridors, and there's no way out.

God, every night is like that.
Always there are some awake,
who turn, turn, and do not find you.
Don't you hear them blindly treading the dark?
Don't you hear them crying out
as they go farther and farther down?
Surely you hear them weep; for they are weeping.

 I seek you, because they are passing
right by my door: Whom should I turn to,
if not the one whose darkness
is darker than night, the only one
who keeps vigil with no candle,
and is not afraid--
the deep one, whose being I trust,
for it breaks through the earth into trees,
and rises,
when I bow my head,
faint as a fragrance
from the soil.

 II, 3


  1. What an inspirational collection of photos and poetry!

  2. Congratulations on your blog! It makes for wholesome and introspective reading.