Wednesday, May 30, 2012

alternately stone and star

© 2009 by Amber Schley Iragui, Barbados

E  V  E  N  I  N G
Rainer Maria Rilke

The sky puts on the darkening blue coat
held for it by a row of ancient trees;
you watch: and the lands grow distant in your sight,
one journeying to heaven, one that falls;

and leave you, not at home in either one,
not quite so still and dark as the darkened houses,
not calling to eternity with the passion of what becomes
a star each night, and rises;

and leave you (inexpressibly to unravel)
your life, with its immensity and fear,
so that, now bounded, now immeasurable,
it is alternately stone in you and star.

Translated by Stephen Mitchell from The Book of Pictures, 1902-1906

•      •      •      •      •      •      •      •      •      •      •      •      •      •      •      •      •      •      •      •      •      •      •      •      •      •      •      •      •      •      •      •      •      •      •      •      •      •      •      •

 This is the Rilke Appreciation Club, apparently. But given that Friday's theme is evening light, it was hard to pass up this poem.

I live mostly in between. Holding together the things that sit, often incongruous, in me; desires asking for completion or merely attention. Or maybe just as a question mark, floating there, as though my heart contained a list: copper beech, Columbia Gorge, old flame, French, or the name of a childhood friend.

Last night I dreamt my father was walking beside me at a luxurious spa. There were Japanese baths and rock-lined hot springs and flowering trees above oddly beautiful exercise equipment. My father was vigorous and cheerful, wearing a pink-striped button-down, drinking some sort of expensive coffee. If you know my father you know how unlikely this is, right down the pink shirt. But I am of the school that everything we see in our dreams represents ourselves, so I am curious to watch the more curmudgeonly side of myself (sorry, Dad!) blossom and luxuriate a bit.

The point is this: we narrate our lives. There is plenty material we can elaborate upon or discard. But more often than not we are given things—stone, star—and we are left to make do. Some things refuse to go, other things are ever inexpressible or unattainable. But we just have to hold what we've been given, gently, letting it sit with us. Or, alternately, letting it unravel about us and run squawking across the yard. We are the voice narrating the sitting and the squawking, and we don't have to jump up and chase it. We don't have to make everything fit, my Dad can wear pink button-downs and I can let my question marks float along beside me, unexpressed but present. My heart ever expanding and closing, warm and cold, light and dark.

{ p o e t r y   w e d n e s d a y }


May said...

My narration of my own life has been pretty somber of late. Thank you for the reminder that it's ok to be gentle and sit with it all.

Julia said...

In my mind, you and Rilke will probably always be linked, and I don't think it is a stretch to say that you do with images, or maybe experience the visual in a way that is very similar to what he does with words and poetic imagery. And here you are reaching the heights with your words as well.

Mark Janssen said...

Astounding photo. And thank you for the poem.