February 26, 2011

What You Cannot Hold

Rilke and Clara
by Paula Modersohn-Becker

You who let yourselves feel: enter the breathing
that is more than your own.
Let it brush your cheeks
as it divides and rejoins behind you.

Blessed ones, whole ones,
you where the heart begins:
You are the bow that shoots the arrows
and you are the target.

Fear not the pain. Let its weight fall back
into the earth;
for heavy are the mountains, heavy the seas.

The trees you planted in childhood have grown
too heavy. You cannot bring them along.
Give yourselves to the air, to what you cannot hold.

Sonnets to Orpheus I, 4


  1. That's an amazing image of Rilke and wife, Lorenzo. What magnificent profiles they each had. I can almost feel the hum of the years in this photo and in these words. Thanks.

  2. Oh, my ... I love the image of giving yourself to what you cannot hold. It seems to me another way of saying letting go, trusting, free-falling, letting the belief in something ineffable permeate you. Beautiful

  3. I'm looking at the picture only right now because both the photo and the words are so large and independent. To me it tells a great deal, or rather, I am guessing and reading into it a great deal. (Here I come with my own personal baggage. Ha!) His eyes - it looks like he has acquiesced, doesn't it? Like he is saying, I am here, I am open, I am receiving/divining. And Clara, well it looks like she is steadfast. She is here. She has work. My god, and she is working.

    The photo is enough for me today, perhaps even then, too much. Their relationship and their lifetime steadfastness are things I do not know.

    The poem - I'm excited to come back with an open mind and listen to that later.


  4. I'm so fascinated by this "picture" Rilke gives of air as whole, as a breathing world, that we are part of. I immediately think of Mark Strand's poem:

    Keeping Things Whole


    In a field
    I am the absence
    of field.
    This is
    always the case.
    Wherever I am
    I am what is missing.

    When I walk
    I part the air
    and always
    the air moves in
    to fill the spaces
    where my body’s been.

    We all have reasons
    for moving.
    I move
    to keep things whole.

  5. What a stunning portrait of these two, and what beautiful lines to accompany them.

  6. this morning's reflection was about the threads that are tied at one end in my childhood and which i am still weaving into the fabric of my daily existence. steven

  7. Amazingly relevant poem by Mark Strand, Ruth. Thanks for quoting it.

    I'm fascinated by and trying to get my head around the lines 'You are the bow that shoots the arrows / and you are the target.' Brought to mind Bob Dylan - and Zen Buddhist koans.


"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!