Last Entry (In a Pocket Notebook) – Rainer Maria Rilke
(Written two weeks before his death. I have reworked and played around with this poem significantly.)
Come, you last thing, which I admit
and receive. I am readying. Deeply ill—
painfully, humbly, miserably ill—this unholy agony
now unraveling the fleshly weave. This deep
extraction from this vast weave of ancient
invisible connections. This final preparation
before vanishing into sky. This sinking now
toward some other, distant greater bed.
This preparing to be torn at last from
the earth’s embrace. Pressed so close
now to the center-heart-storm of life,
yet not able to live and relish
any of this too late new seeing.
Once we were such good friends,
this body and I—like brothers really;
so it seemed. I don’t know how it happened,
that it has come to this—that we have become
so estranged from each other and must separate—
this greatest of betrayals—inevitable, certain,
inescapable, fated; but lived as though it would
never happen—as if the script were wrong,
that the body would never actually do this to us.
(But it does. It will. And it is doing this to us
all the time. Preparing itself; charting its own course;
following its own schedule of runs to ruin.
And we, just along with it, all temporary; riders
and passengers going to where we know not.)
My body and I are not one,
but two—a solitary two;
and now he is acting as though
he scarcely ever knew me.
Gently I am trying to steady him,
reminding him of everything
we shared—for this is the way
it is with true friends: they endure.
If one is true, they can remain true.
And when one learns of illness,
that is when the practice of
this friendship is most hard.
Just as I once burned in spirit, soon
I’ll burn in you, you last and greatest thing.
The wood has long been held back,
kept at a distance, temporarily, as everything only is,
from the full heat of the flames you blaze. But now
it is my turn in the procession, to feed your fire,
to have my life laid long like a log in your all-consuming
flames, to burn difficultly, painfully in you, to have seen
by you what I am and what my native mildness might
have hid—a raging hell and fear unlike anything else here?
or just more plain bewildered animal stares?
Will it even be I, there, any longer
burning beyond recognition?—
amid a hundred unknown
never suspected resistances that
resided within me silently, latently, my entire life,
learning with great difficulty and without
any more practice infinite loss, forced to learn it on the fly,
to practice while utterly disoriented and distracted—
distracted by the greatest last and ultimate thing—
forced to practice without rest or repose, without say or pause
or any control anymore, in the one true Fire, to perform now
what I was given so many earlier and easier chances to practice
and rehearse with all the tinier little fires in my life that I chose to avoid and deny,
free now of future, completely pure, without plans, without control,
unable to drag anymore new memories inside or out.
O Life! Life! I in flame. This is what we were and are fated for.
This final offering back to life. It is all Glory, this life,
to anyone who learns how to rightly see it all. Only love.
I want nothing now that would compromise my awareness.
No one knows me any longer. It is happening. It is happening. I