Our Lady Peace
How far is it to peace, the piper sighed,
The solitary, sweating as he paused.
Asphalt the noon; the ravens, terrified,
Fled carrion thunder that percussion caused.
The envelope of earth was powder loud;
The taut wings shivered, driven at the sun.
The piper put his pipe away and bowed.
Not here, he said. I hunt the love-cool one,
The dancer with the clipped hair. Where is she?
We shook our heads, parting for him to pass.
Our lady was of no such trim degree,
And none of us had seen her face, alas.
She was the very ridges that we must scale,
Securing the rough top. And how she smiled
Was how our strength would issue. Not to fail
Was having her, gigantic, undefiled,
For homely goddess, big as the world that burned,
Grandmother and taskmistress, field and town.
We let the stranger go; but when we turned
Our lady lived, fierce in each other's frown.
--Mark Van Doren
For the sake of a few lines one must see many cities, men and things. One must know the animals, one must feel how the birds fly and know the gesture with which the small flowers open in the morning. One must be able to think back to roads in unknown regions, to unexpected meetings and to partings which one had long seen coming; to days of childhood that are still unexplained, to parents that one had to hurt when they brought one some joy and one did not grasp it (it was joy for someone else); to childhood illness that so strangely began with a number of profound and grave transformations, to days in rooms withdrawn and quiet and to mornings by the sea, to the sea itself, to seas, to nights of travel that rushed along on high and flew with all the stars-and it is not enough if one may think all of this. One must have memories of many nights of love, none of which was like the others, of the screams of women in labor, and of light, white, sleeping women in childbed, closing again. But one must also have been beside the dying, one must have sat beside the dead in the room with the open window and the fitful noises. And still it is not enough to have memories. One must be able to forget them when they are many, and one must have the great patience to wait until they come again. For it is not yet the memories themselves. Not until they have turned to blood within us, to glance, to gesture, nameless and no longer to be distinguished from ourselves-not until then can it happen that in a most rare hour the first word of a verse arises in their midst and goes forth from them.
--Rainer Maria Rilke, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge
Do you remember still the falling stars
that like swift horses through the heavens raced
and suddenly leaped across the hurdles
of our wishes -- do you recall? And we
did make so many! For there were countless numbers
of stars: each time we looked above we were
astounded by the swiftness of their daring play,
while in our hearts we felt safe and secure
watching these brilliant bodies disintegrate,
knowing somehow we had survived their fall.
--Rainer Maria Rilke