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
souls,
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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All this stood upon her and was the world
and stood upon her with all its fear and grace
as trees stand, growing straight up, imageless
yet wholly image, like the Ark of God,
and solemn, as if imposed upon a race.

And she endured it all: bore up under
the swift-as-flight, the fleeting, the far-gone,
the inconceivably vast, the still-to-learn,
serenely as a woman carrying water
moves with a full jug. Till in the midst of play,
transfiguring and preparing for the future,
the first white veil descended, gliding softly

over her opened face, almost opaque there,
never to be lifted off again, and somehow
giving to all her questions just one answer:
In you, who were a child once–in you.

– Rainer Maria Rilke