Friday, March 25, 2011

"when the waters raged"

I may have posted this poem on here before, Rainer Maria Rilke, my favorite poet. This poem is from Book of Hours. It is from the section The Book of Monastic Life and is identified only as I, 13.

I am too alone in the world, yet not enough alone
to make each hour holy.
I'm too small in the world, yet not small enough
to be simply in your presence, like a thing--
just as it is.

I want to know my will
and to move with it.
And I want, in the hushed moments
when the nameless draws near,
to be among the wise ones--
or alone.

I want to mirror your immensity.
I want never to be too weak or too old
to bear the heavy, lurching image of you.

I want to unfold.
Let no place in me hold itself closed,
for where I am closed, I am false.
I want to stay near in your sight.

I would describe myself
like a landscape I've studied
at length, in detail;
like a word I'm coming to understand;
like a pitcher I pour from at mealtime;
like my mother's face;
like a ship that carried me
when the waters raged.

I love this poem. I love pretty much anything Rilke ever wrote but this poem grabs me by the heart and won't let go. There is a long tradition in poetry of writing spiritual poetry, to a god, or higher being. My writing is very much grounded in the human body; when religion or spirituality appears it appears as homage to my religious upbringing or other mythologies that have influenced me. I wrote a poem to god maybe 11 years ago. It was the first poem I wrote after years of writing prose that made me want to be a poet again. All these years later I still think it's one of my strongest poems.

Even though I've moved away from religion in my life I still carry within my the residue of growing up with a looming invisible hand over my head. Religion to me was never about love, it was about becoming subversive before a malevolent, judgemental being who was constantly ready to smite me down. In my early twenties I fell in love with a very spiritual man who slowly pried me away from my apathy towards seeking a spiritual relationship with the world. He still influences how I think even though I have moved away from the practices I held onto back then. I study psychology for fun and know our thoughts effect how we live and perceive the world. Even thought I'm not Catholic or a theist I love this prayer, I love how it is set to music. It is, for a lack of a better term, a mantra I repeat to myself before I go to bed at night. If anything i reminds me to always try to be my best self.

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