April is National Poetry Month. Here is a mid-month reminder of how poetry can touch us in a way that we cannot explain.
Ranier Maria Rilke is most famous for his Letters to a Young Poet, exchanged between 1902 and 1908 with Franz Kappus, a 19-year old military cadet seeking guidance for his poetry.
The poem below is excerpted from a new book, Prayers of a Young Poet, a collection of earlier works Rilke wrote in 1899 after returning to Germany from his first trip to Russia.
We grasp You only in what we do,
illuminate You only with our hands;
our every sense is but a guest here,
yearning to reach beyond the world.
Every sense is conceived;
one feels its elegant hem,
and knows someone spun it—
but heaven surrenders itself
because it cannot choose.
I don’t want to know where You are;
speak to me from every place.
Your willing evangelist distorts
everything, and in his forgetting
neglects to look for the resonance.
But I’m always approaching You
with all my coming;
yet who am I and who are You
when neither of us understands the other?