Answering Rilke’s Sonnets to Orpheus

A poem


Sadness of all life, life of all sadness —

pouring death into fourteen lines,

you poured it well, smooth and steady,

twisting just so to catch the drip.


But I pity your ecstatic butterfly —

clutched in the grip of some poetic hiccough,

arrested flutter of the diaphragm.


I pity your fountain mouth,

your sleeping ear,

your blackened, aging chin.


And I pity your monuments,

so lonely, so unerected.


I pity the lyre — its indefinite,

soundless echo. Its player:


tired fingers, tired eyes,

nothing more to look back for,

yet the song goes on.