Rilke: Gazing at Gardens

The poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke has been enlightening my mornings, as spring turns into summer. I wake, brew a cup of black coffee, sit by my front window under the shade of the sycamore tree, and let the poet’s verses awaken me to the spiritual and sentimental possibilities of the day.

On a bright, crisp morning this week I read:

You who never arrived

in my arms, Beloved, who were lost

from the start,

I don’t even know what songs

would please you. I have given up trying

to recognize you in the surging wave of the next


The poet’s longing for a Beloved filled me with a fleeting nostalgia that, as the verses unfolded, became sweet saudades for Love.

You, Beloved, who are all

the gardens I have ever gazed at,


The verses unfolded the poet’s bittersweet lamentation about the encounters that never happen, as the would-be lovers keep missing each other, just barely:

An open window in a country house–, and you almost

stepped out, pensive, to meet me.

Streets that I chanced upon,–

you had just walked down them and vanished.

Rilke’s verses offered me a hint of what to do with my day, in response to my unexpected anhelo. I decided to take a walk around my Brooklyn neighborhood, without a planned route or destination, turning spontaneously at random corners, with the sole purpose of gazing at gardens.

And in every garden my heart sensed you, Beloved–felt you not with lament, but with joy.

And in every bird song I heard your voice singing the closing verses of Rilke’s poem:

Who knows? perhaps the same

bird echoed through both of us

yesterday, separate, in the evening…

I heard your voice in the bird songs–there was no sadness in the melodies, but sheer hope.

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