I BOW MY HEAD

                    He is the one who breaks down the walls
                    and when he works, he works in silence.

                               – Rainer Maria Rilke (“Das Stundenbuch”)

The mortar crumbles between old stones
bright lichen claims with color, little islands
of fire burning within long shadows of fall.

Even in Eden, a white flag meant nothing
at all. Outside, the persistent grin and wait
with infinite patience, move their troops

at every opportunity to surround and incorporate
our certain fate. I may disguise my flesh
or burn holes in darkness, temporarily—fool

the truth for a moment—but I surrender now
and swear profane allegiance to the king
of all things, drawn most, however,

to his amusing ladies, just waiting
to sing and dance around the fire, to celebrate
the wild beyond our fortresses and fears.

*              *              *              *              *              *              *

Rainer Maria Rilke

DAS STUNDENBUCH (The Book of Hours)
                    translated by Robert Bly

All of you undisturbed cities,
haven’t you ever longed for the Enemy?
I would like to see you besieged by him
for ten endless and groundshaking years

Until you were desperate and mad in suffering
finally, in hunger, you would feel his weight
He lies outside the walls like the countryside
He knows very well how to endure
longer than those he comes to visit

Climb up on your roofs and look out:
his camp is there. His morale will not falter
His number will not decrease, he will not weaken
He sends no one into the city to threaten
or promise and no one to negotiate

He is the one who breaks down the walls
and when he works, he works in silence.

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