Quiet friend who has come so far,
feel how your breathing makes more space around you.
Let this darkness be a bell tower
and you the bell. As you ring,
what batters you becomes your strength.
Move back and forth into the change.
What is it like, such intensity of pain?
If the drink is bitter, turn yourself to wine.
In this uncontainable night,
be the mystery at the crossroads of your senses,
the meaning discovered there.
And if the world has ceased to hear you,
say to the silent earth: I flow.
To the rushing water, speak: I am.
"II, 29" ["Let This Darkness Be a Bell Tower"] by Rainer Maria Rilke, from Sonnets to Orpheus, anthologized in In Praise of Mortality: Selections from Rainer Maria Rilke's Duino Elegies and Sonnets to Orpheus. Edited and translated from the original German by Joanna Macy and Anita Barrows. © Riverhead, 2005.
Read the German text online on p. 134 of this source.
Listen to translator Joanna Macy recite this poem and offer brief commentary, clipped from an interview with Krista Tippet, OnBeing.org, July 13, 2010.
Art credit: "Church Bell Cortona," watercolor painting (8 of 40) by Cameron Lee Roberts (originally color).