And You, Love, held wildest childhood over my heart

To Lou Andreas-Salome
-by Rainer Maria Rilke 

I held myself too open, I forgot 
that outside not just things exist and animals 
fully at ease in themselves, whose eyes 
reach from their lives' roundedness no differently 
than portraits do from frames; forgot that I 
with all I did incessantly crammed 
looks into myself; looks, opinion, curiosity. 
Who knows: perhaps eyes form in space 
and look on everywhere. Ah, only plunged toward you 
does my face cease being on display, grows 
into you and twines on darkly, endlessly, 
into your sheltered heart. 

As one puts a handkerchief before pent-in-breath- 
no: as one presses it against a wound 
out of which the whole of life, in a single gush, 
wants to stream, I held you to me: I saw you 
turn red from me. How could anyone express 
what took place between us? We made up for everything 
there was never time for. I matured strangely 
in every impulse of unperformed youth, 
and you, love, had wildest childhood over my heart. 

Memory won't suffice here: from those moments 
there must be layers of pure existence 
on my being's floor, a precipitate 
from that immensely overfilled solution. 

For I don't think back; all that I am 
stirs me because of you. I don't invent you 
at sadly cooled-off places from which 
you've gone away; even your not being there 
is warm with you and more real and more 
than a privation. Longing leads out too often 
into vagueness. Why should I cast myself, when, 
for all I know, your influence falls on me, 
gently, like moonlight on a window seat. 


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