Jan. 7, 2002: LAMENT

Dear readers,

Thank you for patiently accepting our two-week holiday respite. Today I
present a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke, translated by Stephen Mitchell. I
had always assumed that Rilke was German, but the introduction here tells
me that he lived in Prague, Russia, and Paris for most of his life. His
friend the Russian poet Marina Tsvetayeva once said to him, "You are not
my most favorite poet. You are poetry itself."

This selection, written about a hundred years ago, is dedicated to
longtime reader Judy Suh, who celebrates her birthday today.

LAMENT

Everything is far
and long gone by.
I think that the star
glittering above me
has been dead for a million years.
I think there were tears
in the car I heard pass
and something terrible was said.
A clock has stopped striking in the house
across the road…
When did it start?…
I would like to step out of my heart
and go walking beneath the enormous sky.
I would like to pray.
And surely of all the stars that perished
long ago,
one still exists.
I think that I know
which one it is–
which one, at the end of its beam in the sky,
stands like a white city…

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