I am in grad school for writing and we read a lot of poetry. It’s an acquired taste for many but I, for one, love it.
Not the silly fabulous poetry, not the twee Instagram rhymes, but poetry, the type of word strings that rattle your bones, carving your core, growing on and within you like a benign mass. It’s been fun getting to know poetry, as if someone who has always been across the room from you at a party has finally made eye contact and you can finally see how fabulous they truly are. You’re anxious to chat more and more with them. It’s been nice.
In a recent chatting with a professor, we were vaguely talking about themes and interests in our practices and, naturally, I noted how somewhat obsessed my work is with death. Undoubtedly uplifted, the professor had something to share: a poem that he thought I would enjoy for seeming to straddle my subject in a very delicate manner. It’s called “The Swan” and was written by late twentieth century writer Rainer Maria Rilke. Rilke was known for his often New Age leaning, “mystical” writing. His zen quality has been thought to help “lead us to a more fulfilled and less anxious life.”
So, “The Swan.” Why is it of note? It’s an abstract, densely packed metaphor for death and life. Rilke frames this through the movement of swans, from their walk to their approach to water. It’s a delicate poem and requires many, many readings. It’s both very forthright but also able to be untangled for hours. The power of poetry.
Enjoy. It’s not a total downer, mind you, but is something to help you glide toward the great beyond.
This laboring of ours with all that remains undone,
as if still bound to it,
is like the lumbering gait of the swan.
And then our dying—releasing ourselves
from the very ground on which we stood—
is like the way he hesitantly lowers himself
into the water. It gently receives him,
and, gladly yielding, flows back beneath him,
as wave follows wave,
while he, now wholly serene and sure,
with regal composure,
allows himself to glide.