You, neighbor god, if sometimes in the night

You, neighbor god, if sometimes in the night
I rouse you with loud knocking, I do so
only because I seldom hear you breathe
and know: you are alone.
And should you need a drink, no one is there
to reach it to you, groping in the dark.
Always I hearken. Give but a small sign.
I am quite near.

Between us there is but a narrow wall,
and by sheer chance; for it would take
merely a call from your lips or from mine
to break it down,
and that without a sound.

The wall is builded of your images.

They stand before you hiding you like names.
And when the light within me blazes high
that in my inmost soul I know you by,
the radiance is squandered on their frames.

And then my senses, which too soon grow lame,
exiled from you, must go their homeless ways.

— Rainer Maria Rilke, Poems from the Book of Hours

4 thoughts on “You, neighbor god, if sometimes in the night

  1. My brother recommended I might like this blog. He was entirely right.
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  2. Pingback: In a House Builded of Images, Speak | A Common.Place

  3. Several years ago when my younger brother died from liver failure at 49 after suffering for years waiting for a transplant, I discovered this translation of Rilke’s poem as I gathered with my elderly parents in our hotel room after leaving my brother’s bedside in the ICU. There are no words to adequately describe the absolute connection with Rilke I felt in that moment reading this passage. I felt in that moment the images of his poem juxtaposed against the images in my mind of my brother’s suffering during the days before fighting for his life in a septic coma. I will always adore this poem for crystallizing a moment in time that though deeply disturbing offered a glimpse for me into the heart of God’s suffering and an intimacy that binds us inextricably to Him as living creatures.

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