From “Improvisations of the Caprisian Winter”

Face, my face:
whose are you? what
are you the face of?
How can you serve as face for such insides,
where beginning and decomposition
ceaselessy converge.
Does the forest have a face?
Doesn’t the great basalt mountain
stand there without a face?
Doesn’t the sea
rise facelessly
from the abyss of the sea?
Isn’t the sky mirrored in it
without brow, without mouth, without chin?

Doesn’t one of the animals sometimes approach
as though it were pleading: take my face?
Their faces are too hard for them
and hold what little soul they have
much too far into the world. And we?
Animals of the soul, bewildered
by all that’s inside us, unprepared
for anything, grazing
don’t we pass whole nights
pleading with the power that hears
for the nonface
which belongs to the darkness in us.

~ Rainer Maria Rilke, trans. Franz Wright

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