July 5, 2011


Gold leads a pampered life, protected by banks,
on intimate terms with the best people.
The homeless beggar is no more than a lost coin
fallen behind the bookcase or in the dustpile under the bed.

In the finest shops, money is right at home,
loving to parade itself in flowers, silk and furs.
He, the silent one, stands outside this display.
Money, near him, stops breathing.

How does his outstretched hand ever close at night?
Fate, each morning, picks it up again,
holds it out there, naked and raw.

In order to grasp what his life is like,
to see it and cherish it, you would need a song,
a song only a god could bear to hear.

Sonnets to Orpheus II, 19


  1. " . . . behind the bookcase or in the dustpile under the bed. . . . " where they are hidden from view. In the final stanza Rilke finally expresses what I and so many of us feel. It is not enough to donate. A part of me wants to grasp . . . and cherish the beggar's life. But I fear to, because what will become of my comfort if I do? To lose that fear, and to be embodied in the beggar, would take godlike ability of sight, compassion and endurance. I am not afraid of the beggar. I am afraid of my life changing.

  2. "Gold loves a pampered life, protected by banks"...this line triggered for me my early memories of resentment of the apparent ease of life for the already wealthy. Back then, I was a scholarship kid from the tenements at an elite high school and it seemed the golden kids had it easier right out of the gate. Their lives were the embodiment of the finest shops where money is right home.

  3. holy shit. i should not read rilke before my head clears. i have read three times, god leads a pampered life and i was almost stomping mad at rilke. i was rejecting this poem absolutely and confused by your honest and fragile response, ruth. heh. ok, i shall read again...

    funny, i read it again and ok, rilke, i'm sorry. it's closer to me than i thought. and ruth, i'm grateful you say what so many lack the courage to. but i wonder, aren't we all beggars? only that some of us don't know it? god must bear us all. it is only that some of us have fine powder over our stink, some of us a full belly, some of us more fallen coins than others. but it is all so volatile. we should all pracice the humility of begging.

    i beggged once, a fraction of a second. i hitch hiked. i sat beneath a tree with a man who pounded stone days on end and shared his water. when my children were born and times were tough we received clothing from strangers. it causes us to open our eyes and when we have plenty, it helps us to share.


  4. I have a nephew who ministers to the 'poor' Wall Street folks who are spiritually impoverished. Maybe folks like Maggie went to school with. I cringe at the thought of this ministry. It galls me and claws at me, and I reject it in my soul.

    Yet . . .

    I suppose they are beggars. Yes, I think we all are beggars, Erin. I separate myself from it. It is hard to receive a gift, is it not? Even harder to ask for one.

    I beg for light. I beg for attention. I beg for love, for peace. We are need. We are human. We are nothing without each other, as your comment box says, Erin.

  5. The truth of every individual life, I think, is "a song only a god would bear to hear." That, at least, would be my truth.

  6. "How does his outstretched hand ever close at night?" What a provocative question. It rings and rings in my ear.

    And that notion that a "homeless beggar" as "no more than a lost coin / fallen behind the bookcase..." as if not worth bothering with: For some who fail to see worth in every human, no matter position in life, I suppose it does take "a song only a god could bear to hear" - and we are all the poorer for that.

  7. ruth, i am grateful for your extension of begging. yes, my friend, we are all beggars, beggars of the soul.

    i hope i answer your hand often enough. i mean to (help) feed you, as you most certainly feed me.


  8. funny Ruth, i fear the opposite; i fear my life not changing. I wish it to change drastically and daily. I loved the line gold holds its breath. such arrogance and distrust.
    i have only known true kindness through beggars.
    only when one is truly in need can two hearts come together.

  9. Ruth, i fear precisely the opposite. I fear my life wont change, and i want it to change daily and dramatically. i loved the line gold held its breath; such arrogance and distrust!
    i have only know kindness through the beggar for only when one is truly in need can two hearts come together.


"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!