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Thursday, April 7, 2011

By-Now-Daily Rilke

from Rilke's Book of Hours 
from "The Book of Pilgrimage"
Rainer Maria Rilke
tr. Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy 


Extinguish my eyes, I'll go on seeing you.
Seal my ears, I'll go on hearing you.
And without feet I can make my way to you,
without a mouth I can swear your name.

Break off my arms, I'll take hold of you
with my heart as a hand.
Stop my heart, and my brain will start to beat.
And if you consume my brain with fire,
I'll feel you burn in every drop of my blood.

II, 7

The mystical strain of this poetry follows the common ground of a mysticism.  There is a mysterious and serious violence that seems to follow "And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force."  This seems to be the strain we are entertaining here. The violence of this poem suggests the violence of the love that will transport the individual. This love is transformative--"stop my heart, and my brain will start to beat."  This is a fire that burns but not with a burning that is destructive.  Rather it is a fire that is reconstructive.

I don't know that it is possible for me to recommend this book highly enough to those interested in the mystical in poetry or mysticism in general.  I tend to think of it as something parallel to Omar Khayyam in what it has to say to us about the expression of faith in poetry.

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