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The On Being Project

“Let This Darkness Be a Bell Tower”

translation by Joanna Macy + Anita Barrows


Quiet friend who has come so far,
feel how your breathing makes more space around you.
Let this darkness be a bell tower
and you the bell. As you ring,

what batters you becomes your strength.
Move back and forth into the change.
What is it like, such intensity of pain?
If the drink is bitter, turn yourself to wine.

In this uncontainable night,
be the mystery at the crossroads of your senses,
the meaning discovered there.

And if the world has ceased to hear you,
say to the silent earth: I flow.
To the rushing water, speak: I am.

Sonnets to Orpheus II, 29

From his last “Sonnet to Orpheus,” Joanna Macy tells us that Rilke has chosen to be with the darkness rather than hide from it. She shares how she finds in it resonance with our relationship to our planet.

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