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Sonnets to Orpheus

Rainer Maria Rilke

Anticipate each goodbye, as if it were

already behind you like a winter that’s passed.

Because underneath these winters is such an interminable

winter, that only by hibernating can your heart survive.

Always be dead in Eurydice—climb out the way a singer climbs,

in a voice rich with loss and celebration of that pure connection.

And here, below with the ghosts, in the empire of bitter endings,

be the clinking glass that, even as it shatters, rings.

Be—and at the same time—realize your inescapable non-existence

is the unquenchable root of your deepest resonance.

And just this once, be all you were meant to become:

To those already used and discarded, and to the numb, mute

stockyard of bloated nature—to that unspeakable sum—

count yourself gladly in and nullify the count.

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