Ich bete wieder, du Elauchter

I am praying again, Awesome One.

You hear me again, as words
from the depths of me
rush toward you in the wind.

I’ve been scattered in pieces,
torn by conflict,
mocked by laughter,
washed down in drink.

In alleyways I sweep myself up
out of garbage and broken glass.
With my half-mouth I stammer you,
who are eternal in your symmetry.
I lift to you my half-hands
in wordless beseeching, that I may find again
the eyes with which I once beheld you.

I am a house gutted by fire
where only the guilty sometimes sleep
before the punishment that devours them
hounds them out in the open.

I am a city by the sea
sinking into a toxic tide.
I am strange to myself, as though someone unknown
had poisoned my mother as she carried me.

It’s here in all the pieces of my shame
that now I find myself again.
I yearn to belong to something, to be contained
in an all-embracing mind that sees me
as a single thing.
I yearn to be held
in the great hands of your heart–
oh let them take me now.
Into them I place these fragments, my life,
and you, God–spend them however you want.

–Barrows and Macy, trans. 1996. Rilke, Rainer Maria. Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God. Riverhead Books.

Someone I love is very ill, and we don’t know which direction he’ll choose to go in, because he is a saint, and he will go where his responsibilities call. Knowing we can have faith in him to do that doesn’t make the possibility of our loss less painful, though. Love, relationship, are funny things on this plane of existence: one can live with another person all one’s life and never “get it right,” as my own relationships with my father and mother have taught me. One can carry another person in one’s heart and forget to even write a letter for years, yet be called when needed, and discover that there was a divine friendship that carried no hidden contract and needed no tending, but would cash in when necessary, for the sake of either or both parties. “For now we see through a glass darkly,” as 1st Corinthians says, and it is true: how little we see, when we are drawn to another person, what the relationship might offer up to us at the end of the day…or another day, or still another day.

I am guardedly enthusiastic about advancing age, because I notice that it is beginning to make many things clear to me, relationship being one of the most prominent, and the “difference” between life and death another. Mostly, that is, that there isn’t one. Or rather, I could say, if there is, it is that “this” life is not about comfort and happiness, but rather about the search for what these really are, a lesson to be learned through the realization of limitation, which can only be found through its overcoming.

My husband and I watched Ram Dass’ film “Fierce Grace” the other night, and were deeply moved by it in unexpected ways. For me, it was a greeting to an old friend, because although Ram Dass and I do not know each other well, we have greeted each other with a warm embrace and a heartfelt “Mmmmm…..” with no words even needed several times over the years, and because the film documented many cherished memories and reminded me of many other of my old friends from that fairy-tale time during the 60s and 70s when many of us found ourselves as spiritual beings. Ram Dass, like the rest of us, is getting on now, and was unable not to offer his own profound experience of “being stroked” so that we could consider for ourselves how it can be when it comes to us. What moved me most about the film was the couple of times when, in different circumstances, he himself broke into tears: messy, embarassing, awkward tears….those tears that come from a place so deep one was not even aware of its existence until that moment, that moment when the worlds meet and it all comes clear and one cannot help but weep for the glory and the sorrow and the limitation and the sacredness and the tears and the laughter and the profound foolishness of divinity emerging through the willingness of our humanity. It is a willingness hard won, and it is the pearl beyond price.

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