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What birds plunge through is not the intimate space by Rainer Maria Rilke

My sister S. is a very proud, hard woman. I imagine her heart weighs heavy, crafted solid, a big rock. I imagine it has a lot of tiny rough edges that can cut and make you bleed. When she speaks, you have to be strong enough to take it. I’ve known her all my life, and yet I still can’t prepare myself when she lashes out. She isn’t a wounded animal, no, not at all. But I weep for her sometimes. Whenever I see her asleep, I want to put my ear on her chest, knock softly, whisper, Are you there?

What birds plunge through is not the intimate space
Rainer Maria Rilke
Translated by Stephen Mitchell

What birds plunge through is not the intimate space
in which you see all forms intensified.
(Out in the Open, you would be denied
your self, would disappear into that vastness.)

Space reaches from us and construes the world:
to know a tree, in its true element,
throw inner space around it, from that pure
abundance in you. Surround it with restraint.
It has no limits. Not till it is held
in your renouncing is it truly there.

Comments (3)

  • This is stunning! I almost forgot about Rilke. Thanks for the reincarnation. i copy pasted it for a Friday blog post over at mscomfortzone–and your own writing is– poetry. Take it from me, it’s clear, evocative, perfect poetry in prose.

  • who translated this poem? do you know?

  • Mary in Scottsdale, AZ

    I never get enough Rilke!


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