poems of rainer maria rilke
rendered from the german by jason francisco

and you wait, expecting the one thing
that will magnify your life to the very end;
the magnificent, the uncommon,
the stones stirring to life,
the depths turned toward you.

dawn flickers again in your shelves
of brown and golden books,
and you think of already-seen countries,
of pictures, of the clothes
of women alert and lonely.

and all at once it comes:  that was it.
you rise, and before you hovers
the figure of a vanished year:
of fear and prayer and shape.

autumn day
my friend, it’s time.  the summer was immense.
lay your shadows on the sundials
and let the wind loose over the fields.

command the last fruits to be full,
give them two more southern days,
urge them toward completion
and chase out the last sweetness into heavy wine.

whoever has left home will not build now,
and whoever is lonely will now remain awake
to read, write long letters
and wander these tree-lined streets
where leaves are drifting.

end of autumn
i’ve noticed for some time
what’s changing.
each thing in turn emerges and acts
and kills and afflicts.

from moment to moment
the gardens are not alike;
from yellowing comes a slow
golden decay:
that path has taken me far.

now i’m alone with the emptiness,
and gazing down the avenues.
almost to the distant seas
i can see a heavy sky
relentless and pondering.

the neighbor
strange violin, are you following me?
in how many distant cities
has your lonely night already spoken to mine?
how many players do you have––hundreds?  only one?

in all the great cities are there a few
who without you would have lost themselves
in your rivers?
and why does it keep hitting me?

why am i always a neighbor
of those who force you to sing from fear
and cry out loud:  life is heavier
than the heaviness of all things.

the angels
all of them have tired mouths
and bright seamless souls.
a longing (as for sin)
tends to trouble their dreams.

they resemble each other;
in god’s gardens they are silent,
like the many, many intervals
in her strength and melody.

only when spreading their wings
do they sound the alarm of the coming wind:
as if god with her broad artisan hands
were turning the pages
of the dark book of the beginning.

from a night storm, 1
on nights like this, you can meet the future
in the streets, narrow pale
faces that don’t recognize you
and let you pass in silence.
but if they begin to talk,
you were one of the long forgotten ones,
you as you stand there prone
and long decayed.
they have not arrived,
but they guard death’s absences.
the future has not begun.
they hold their faces into time, as if below water,
and cannot really see.  
if they endure, they stare as if through surf:
they see fish rolling and diving
from the ropes.