March 10, 2011

The Prisoner (II)

The Burghers of Calais, by Auguste Rodin
Read the story of this sculpture here

Just imagine: what for you now is sky and wind,
air to breathe and light to see,
becomes stone right up to the little space
made by my heart and hands.

And what you now call tomorrow and
soon and next year and after that—
becomes an open wound, full of pus.
It festers and never drains.

And what has been
becomes a madness.
It rages and mocks within you,
twisting your mouth with crazed laughter.

And what had been God
becomes your jailer
and blocks with his filthy eye
your last escape.

And still you live.

New Poems


  1. What has been becomes a madness...What had been God beomes your jailer.
    Telling tenses.
    A very different God for Rilke, now. Why?

    "And still you live."
    And still he has faith. In what?
    Huge pondering begins...

  2. Sometimes a sliver of faith is all you need to live, to wait.

  3. Ah yes - the inner imperative to cling to life. With all the disappointments, wounds, injustice, loss, not and love trump non-existence...'and still we live'...

  4. To me, this is an affirmation of faith, saying yes to all that is and has been, saying yes to a life that seems fragmented even as we see hints of wholeness. In the rage, the mocking, the crazed laughter, and the feeling of being trapped by the past, we still live on. If I may put a twist on the last sentence of F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel, "The Great Gatsby," we "beat on, boats against the current," even when we are "borne ceaselessly back into the past."

  5. and too, sometimes it is only a sliver of doubt that can mar the whole shebang of faith.

    there are days like this.


    Just imagine: what for you now is sky and wind,
    air to breathe and light to see,
    becomes stone right up to the little space
    made by my heart and hands.

    a kind of claustrophobia sets in for me when i do imagine. the hope lies in the little space made by heart and hands. it is here where rilke is most often exercising his spirit, i think.

    but there are days like this, even for rilke, it seems.


  6. Wonderful poem--and somehow it feels very "modern" to me, too. Love the Rodin as well.

  7. even when you think that tomorrow will suck, and even when God keeps you alive instead of letting you go to your have that faith and it will turn around.

    or i do.

  8. Yikes ... mothers, don't let your children grow up to be poets. My guess is that Rilke here is brooding on what would become his failed novel "The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge," written while R. was in Paris and published in 1910. A dense, atheist, Nietzsche-infected work whose shadow laid heavily on the poet a long while. Long way from this poem to his statement, "Praising is what matters," a more poetic way of saying, "hey, lighten up!" -- Brendan

  9. on one hand a very depressive write - and yet - the hope rings through at the end. i'm not surprised because if someone can write in such depth about all kind of emotions, there is always a huge vulnerability present

  10. For me, "and still you live" doesn't offer hope. It almost seems to say, to me, that he was in a really low place and the way he saw it, at this moment, was that many live without light. The whole poem is brimming with utter hopelessness, and a wounded spirit. Obviously, he swung out of this melancholy, but for this moment, he despaired. (but of course, I bow to all those who really do understand poetry!)


"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!