Voyages from I to Thou.

Location: Skellig Michel, Ireland

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Roses (2002) were rich enough to be yourself
a hundred times in just one flower;
that's the condition of the lover ...
But you never did think otherwise.
- Rilke, "The Roses" IV,
transl. A. Poulin Jr.

When I first read those lines
I was walking to my high-stress
newspaper job more than a decade ago:
And then I read them aloud
a second time, astonished ...
"The Roses" are these simple
8-line poems Rilke wrote in French
and seem inexhaustible
in their purity, presence,
and power; reading them aloud
world and word calyxed in the bed
of my ear, sounding so much
with so little, awakening a return,
affirming at last what
I always somehow knew.
I've read those poems
again and again over
the years, from so many
different stations of the life.
Some poems are desert island
songs, artifacts of art's
autobiography which
we could not live without
and which never cease sprouting
within. Few things now slow
our inward whirl; vacancy
spreads through the culture
like a fog, deadening
and deafening all it envelopes.
Just to speak of what is
worth praising seems noble,
when it is only doing
as we should, like breathing.
Lost in the whirl of days,
the space between gasp
and sigh narrows to one
droning vowel-Until one
of Rilke's roses open
like a mouth and a heavenly
wind hurls through me
its strange and wild perfume.
Suddenly I can't breathe
in or out enough
and the bell is
ringing, ringing, ringing.


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