I have enjoyed the poems of Rainer Maria Rilke (1875 – 1926) since I studied German literature in college, and I was delighted to run across several of them recently recommended by one of publications I follow. The first I knew well; the second I did not recall. I thought you would enjoy them both, originally published in 1899.
You, neighbor God, when now and then
in dead of night, with heavy knocks I wake you, –
It’s so, because I barely hear you breathe,
and know: You are alone in the hall.
And when you have a need, there’s no one there,
to bring a drink to satisfy your fumbling.
I’m always listening. Give a little sign.
I am close by.
Only a narrow wall divides us two,
By chance; since it could be
that, but a call from your mouth or from mine,
And it caves in
without any fuss or din.
It is built out of your images.
Those pictures stand in front of you like names.
And when at times the light in me burns out,
by which my depths perceive you,
It wastes itself like glints upon their frames.
And my senses, which are quickly tired,
are homeless and apart from you.
If only just for once it were so still.
If only chance and guesswork would fall silent
and the laughter of my neighbors,
If the noise, which my own senses make,
did not prevent me so from watching – :
Then could I in a thousandfold reflection
approach the edges of you with my thought
And own you (only for a smile’s length),
In order then to give you to the living
as an act of thanks.