More recourse in poetry, more relief

 – Three poems about the experience of life –

* * *

 Last night as I was sleeping

by Antonio Machado

(Spain, 1875 – 1939)

Last night as I was sleeping,

I dreamt – marvelous error! –

that a spring was breaking out

in my heart.

I said: Along which secret aqueduct,

oh water, are you coming to me,

water of a new life

that I have never drunk?

Last night as I was sleeping,

I dreamt – marvelous error! –

that I had a beehive

here inside my heart.

And the golden bees

were making white combs

and sweet honey

from my old failures.

Last night as I was sleeping,

I dreamt – marvelous error! –

that a fiery sun was giving light

inside my heart.

It was fiery because I felt warmth

as from a hearth,

and sun because it gave light

and brought tears to my eyes.

Last night as I was sleeping,

I dreamt – marvelous error! –

that it was God I had here

inside my heart.

Marvelous error: – actually bendita ilusión in the Spanish original – the word illusion would carry only the negative connotation of misconception. In Hindu/Buddhist parlance it probably would be called Maya: Maya, the mysterious attribute of reality that only appears to deceive us but really informs us and lures us to wake up.

Marvelous error: Things are so different than we think, however, herein lies not only danger but exhilaration beyond imagination.

Sweet honey from old failures: What a wonderful image! What we, from our small egocentric perspective, may consider failure, is all, in a larger context, not only ok but sweet honey. When we know Maya, when we know our stories as illusions, when we know how failure is just a concept, not a condemnation without parole, what a relief that what we do or don’t succeed to do doesn’t ultimately matter, that beyond our field of comprehension things are entirely ok: “sweet honey”­­. No problem. We are those who see problems, make problems; we create problems, for the universe the term problem doesn’t exist.

 * * *

 Here is another treasure of Rilke:

You don’t have to understand Life’s nature

 by Rainer Maria Rilke

(German, 1875 – 1926)

 You don’t have to understand Life’s nature,
then it becomes a grand affair.
Let every day just of itself occur
like a child walks away from every hurt
and happens upon the gift of many flowers.
To collect and the blossoms spare,
that never enters the child’s mind.
She gently unties them from her hair,
where they were kept captive with such delight,
and the hands of the loving, youthful years
reach out to embrace the new.

* * *

Du musst das Leben nicht verstehen

Du musst das Leben nicht verstehen,
dann wird es werden wie ein Fest.
Und lass dir jeden Tag geschehen
so wie ein Kind im Weitergehen von jedem Wehen
sich viele Blüten schenken lässt.
Sie aufzusammeln und zu sparen,
das kommt dem Kind nicht in den Sinn.
Es löst sie leise aus den Haaren,
drin sie so gern gefangen waren,
und hält den lieben jungen Jahren
nach neuen seine Hände hin.

* * *

And here is one of a seemingly very different nature. I enjoyed it immensely, and is it really so different?

Last Gods

by Galway Kinnell

(American, born 1927. Pulitzer Prize 1983)

She sits naked on a rock

a few yards out in the water.

He stands on the shore,

also naked, picking blueberries.

She calls. He turns. She opens

her legs showing him her great beauty,

and smiles, a bow of lips

seeming to tie together

the ends of the earth.

Splashing her image

to pieces, he wades out

and stands before her, sunk

to the anklebones in leaf-mush

and bottom-slime – the intimacy

of the invisible world. He puts

a berry in its shirt

of mist into her mouth.

She swallows it. Over the lake

two swallows whim, juke, jink,

and when one snatches

an insect they both whirl up

and exult. He is swollen

not with ichor but with blood.

She takes him and sucks him

more swollen. He kneels, opens

the dark, vertical smile

linking heaven with the underearth

and licks her smoothest flesh more smooth.

On top of the rock they join.

Somewhere a frog moans, a crow screams.

The hair of their bodies

startles up. They cry

in the tongue of the last gods,

who refused to go,

chose death, and shuddered

in joy and shattered in pieces,

bequeathing their cries

into the human mouth. Now in the lake

two faces float, looking up

at a great maternal pine whose branches

open out in all directions

explaining everything.

* * *

Before you let your smile fade away, keep this image in your mind of the tree branches open out in all directions explaining everything.

 * * *

Wake up and live. While we are sweating over our personal legacy or the utter lack of it golden bees were making sweet honey from our old failures. We don’t have to understand Life’s nature. The more we understand the more we see that our understanding only changes our own story about things, ultimately – what an immense relief – these things go by themselves.

Klaus June 8. 2011

This entry was posted in Poems and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to More recourse in poetry, more relief

  1. Richard Thuillier says:

    I’m not one who normally reads poetry, but you make me…..thanks.

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