You Are the Bell


Sonnets to Orpheus II, 29″
Poem by Rainer Maria RilkeTranslation by Joanna Macy and Anita B

Quiet friend who has come so far,
feel how your breathing makes more space around you.
Let this darkness be a bell tower
and you the bell. As you ring,

what batters you becomes your strength.
Move back and forth into the change.
What is it like, such intensity of pain?
If the drink is bitter, turn yourself to wine.

In this uncontainable night, be the mystery at the crossroads of your senses, the meaning discovered there.

And if the world has ceased to hear you, say to the silent earth: I flow.
To the rushing water, speak: I am.

My reading of the poem:

The last thing we want to do is go deep into ourselves, especially after the death of a partner. But that’s exactly what needs to be done. “…feel how your breathing makes more space around you.” Death may be the eternal bell tower, but we are “the bell.” We can hear each other ring, “I flow…I am.” We can get strength from knowing we are not alone, far from it. Death is the universal constant. DSC_0037

I should be writing the last chapters of my memoir right now, but who wants to relive the pain?

When I cry, it’s not about missing Kent as much as it is feeling his absence like a physical wound. My memories of him are all about the sickness and the pain and the evil cancer.

I can remember him whole, alive, laughing. But it takes effort. Rilke’s speaker asks, “What is it like, such intensity of pain?” Good question. How do we express this grief?What is it like?



Tell me what YOU think, please.

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