We Touch from Afar

We touch from afar. But how? With airborne
brushes our beating wings bestir each other.
A poet lives alone. Sometimes there comes another
one who brings him what she herself has borne.

After R. M. Rilke (Val Mont Glion, Canton Vaud. 3 Mai 1926 (Pasternak, Tsvetaeva, Rilke)

Wir rühren uns, womit? Mit Flügel-Schlägen,
mit Fernen selber rühren wir uns an.
Ein Dichter einzig lebt, und dann und wann
kommt, der ihm trägt, dem, der ihn trug, entgegen.


Like the gods of classical mythology, the poets who hold congress in our hearts and minds play out sometimes confounded dramas, this one a painful ménage à trois.

Fully aware that Boris Pasternak, the author of Doctor Zhivago, was his equal in writing and, he feared, in love, Rilke penned this entreaty to Marina Tsvetaeva in which he cast her as his own equal, the beating wings implying she too was a poetic angel, a favorite image of the German.

In the exquisitely tortuous grammar of his last line in German, it is not absolutely clear who brought what to whom, since Rilke followed the convention that poets are male. Or so it might seem. 

My last line at least aims at hinting that grammar rules.