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Posts Tagged ‘Rilke’

I Want a Lot

You love most of all those who need you
as they need a crowbar or a hoe.

     —Rainer Maria Rilke, “You See, I Want a Lot,” trans. Robert Bly

Rilke, you were right.

I want so much to be useful.

Today I stared at the brown cardboard box

on the counter and marveled

at how a box knows exactly what it’s here to do—

it holds what needs to be held,

it keeps things together,

it helps things move where they need to go.

It is a fort for a child or a bed for a cat

or a makeshift sled in winter.

I hazard to say the box never worries

if it is enough. It simply folds up

when its task is done and waits to be of use again.

Or not. Oh, this longing to do more, to be more,

to serve more, because in every direction,

the need is so great. Oh, this fear

that no matter how much I do, it is never enough.

A man is not a crowbar, a hoe.

A woman is not a box,

but oh for a moment to be able

to keep things together.

I know it’s not how it works,

but oh, for a moment,

to hold all that needs to be held.

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(translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy, poem I,1 from “Book of a Monastic Life”)

We are lonely,
the tea and me
and nine o’clock.
So I ask Rilke
to join us. He tells me,
just as the sun
leaps over the mesa
and enters the window,
that nothing has ever
been real without
my beholding it.
I sit a long,
long time considering
his words. Not the sun?
Not the tea? Not
the gray moth?
The Holocaust?
He tells me this:
All becoming
has needed me.
Looking over the white field
to the blue spruce in the grove
I do not hear
one of them fall.

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