After Rilke, Trakl, Hölderlin, and Sachs
Leisurely, the evening sky puts on the robe
held up for it by a crown of ancient trees;
you watch, and the realms move apart like lovers—
one travels heavenwards, and the other one falls
and lets you be, bound to neither universe,
nor quite so dark as the house with its silence,
nor wholly so certain as eternity implored,
like whatever it is that becomes a star and rises—
and lets you be (to unravel beyond language)
your life, with its fear and infinity burgeoning,
so that, now walled in, now encompassing all,
it pulsates in you—stone, star, wave, particle.
II. All Souls
Gentlemen, ladies—a scrum of grieving friends—
sow their flowers now, the blue and the red,
on graves where the dusk sun lowers its curtain.
Poor, helpless puppets, they rehearse before death.
How rife with fear they look, how beaten to dust
standing here, shadows behind darkened shrubs.
Cries of the unborn keen in the autumn gusts
and someone watches lights in crazy reelings flitter.
The moans of lovers are breathing in the branches,
and with them rot bodies of a mother and child.
How unreal the roundabout of the living’s dance
and how strangely mingled with the evening wind.
Their lives are so plagued, brokenhearted, lacerated.
Have mercy, God, on women’s torments and despair,
and on these requiems, so hopeless and desolate.
Hushed, the lonely wander through vaulting halls of stars.
III. The Way
Greatness—you wanted it, too, but love hurls
everything down, grief grovels us till we’re tame,
though not for nothing are all of us bowed
back to the fetal cringe from which we came.
Go any which way. Somewhere in sacred night
dumb nature schemes our hatching brood of days;
just so, bent from hell’s own cowering heights,
is there nothing straight, nothing not astray?
I’ve suffered enough to know this—to my knowledge
never have the heavenly, the upholders of all,
never have they guided me like mortal masters
with care and caution along a level path.
Human, assay everything, so bespeak the Heavens,
so that fed on the living core you will learn
to give thanks to all that is, and grasp the freedom
to go where you will, having torn your self asunder.
IV. The Seeker
Like beings that exist in distant nebulae
we pass, revenants, from dream to dream,
we descend right through the blinding walls
of light bending through its seven-fold prism—
but invisible as glass, at last, and wordless,
the quantum singularity of death
held up in eternity’s crystal chalice,
and night’s wing beats laid bare, with every mystery.