March 9, 2011

The Prisoner (I)

 "The Burghers of Calais," detail of hands

My hand has one gesture left:
to push things away.
From the rock dampness drips
on old stones.

This dripping is all I can hear.
My heart keeps pace
with the drops falling
and sinks away with them.

If the drops fall faster
an animal might come to drink.
Somewhere it is brighter than this—
but what do we know.

New Poems


  1. This one comes as a surprise, from the one who takes everything inside, he now can only push away. I find it very beautiful, in its melancholy.At such a moment of distance, to write such listening lines.

    I feel the image. First, to push away with the hand, almost involuntary it seems to me. Then that motion becomes water dripping, and that is also a separation, but it is a letting go. It isn't completely passive, as there is rhythm and connection within it. And in this willful letting go, comes hope in the last stanza! Oh, an animal might come and drink, receive something, even from such stillness and melancholy. And that brightens the prospect, doesn't it.

    I just love this.

  2. Lovely commentary, Ruth.

    Something seems to haunt Rilke here. That the dripping is on "old" stones makes me wonder if there is perhaps some business he has not attended to, that seems to be all he can think about now that all else is pushed away. And that his heart is "keeping pace" with that dripping - how constant it is, how loud in his ears it must be - and yet "sinks away" as the water itself evaporates, leaving him no time or opportunity. Then that urgency evoked in the dripping faster, giving the sense that there is possibility after all.

  3. there are days we all want to push away from the renlently drippings in our lives.

  4. This is one of Rilke's truly great poems. By a strange coincidence, I was blogging about it myself yesterday ( Thanks for a great blog here


"Everything is blooming most recklessly; if it were voices instead of colors, there would be an unbelievable shrieking into the heart of the night."

~ Rainer Maria Rilke

Go ahead, bloom recklessly!