Rainer Maria Rilke
Translated from the German by Annie Boutelle

Neighbor God

Neighbor God, I disturb you
in the long night with my fierce
knocking because I can hardly
hear you breathe, and I know
you're alone in the huge room
and when you're thirsty there's
no one there to offer you a drink.
I'm listening all the time. Give
a small sign. I'm very close. Only a thin wall rests
between us—if a cry should
rise from your mouth
or mine, the wall would
crumble without a sound. The wall is made of your images. Your images stand in front of you
like titles. And when the light flares
up in me, the light through which
my deepest self knows you, it pours
itself out in gold on your frames. And then my weakening senses
are cut off from you, and left
without a home.

What Will You Do?

What will you do, God, when I die?
I am your pitcher: I will shatter.
I am your drink: I will spoil.
I am your raiment and your trade:
without me you will lose all meaning.After my death, you will have
no house where kind words
wrap you. The velvet slippers
will fall from your tired feet.Your long cloak will release you.
Your glance, used to the cushion
of my warm cheek, will go out looking
for me and, when the sun goes down,
will lie in the lap of strange rocks.What will you do, God? I'm anxious.

Before He Makes Each One

Before he makes each one
of us, God speaks.Then, without speaking,
he takes each one
out of the darkness.And these are the cloudy
words God speaks
before each of us begins:

"You have been sent out
by your senses. Go
to the farthest edge
of desire, and give me
clothing: burn like a great
fire so that the stretched-out
shadows of the things
of the world cover
me completely.
Let everything happen
to you: beauty and terror.
You must just go—
no feeling is the farthest
you can go. Don't let
yourself be separated
from me. The country
called life is close.
By its seriousness,
you will know it.
Give me your hand."