“Sonnets to Orpheus: Part 2 #13” by Rainer Maria Rilke

Rainer Maria Rilke


Anticipate each goodbye, as if it were
already behind you like a winter that’s passed.
Because underneath these winters is such an interminable
winter, that only by hibernating can your heart survive.

Always be dead in Eurydice—climb out the way a singer climbs,
in a voice rich with loss and celebration of that pure connection.
And here, below with the ghosts, in the empire of bitter endings,
be the clinking glass that, even as it shatters, rings.

Be—and at the same time—realize your inescapable non-existence
is the unquenchable root of your deepest resonance.
And just this once, be all you were meant to become:

To those already used and discarded, and to the numb, mute
stockyard of bloated nature—to that unspeakable sum—
count yourself gladly in and nullify the count.

—tr. by Art Beck

from Rattle 29, Summer 2008

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