A Poet Reflects

                     Black Cat
                     A ghost, though invisible, still is like a place                     your sight can knock on, echoing; but here                     within this thick black pelt, your strongest gaze                     will be absorbed and utterly disappear:
                     just as a raving madman, when nothing else                     can ease him, charges into his dark night                     howling, pounds on the padded wall, and feels                     the rage being taken in and pacified.
                     She seems to hide all looks that have ever fallen                     into her, so that, like an audience,                     she can look them over, menacing and sullen,                     and curl up to sleep with them.  But all at once
                     as if awakened, she turns her face to yours;                     and with a shock, you see yourself, tiny,                     inside the golden amber of her eyeballs                     suspended, like a prehistoric fly.
—Rainer Maria Rilke, from The Rose Window and Other Verse from New Poems (Bulfinch Press, 1997)
Translated by Stephen Mitchell

                     Black Cat

                     A ghost, though invisible, still is like a place
                     your sight can knock on, echoing; but here
                     within this thick black pelt, your strongest gaze
                     will be absorbed and utterly disappear:

                     just as a raving madman, when nothing else
                     can ease him, charges into his dark night
                     howling, pounds on the padded wall, and feels
                     the rage being taken in and pacified.

                     She seems to hide all looks that have ever fallen
                     into her, so that, like an audience,
                     she can look them over, menacing and sullen,
                     and curl up to sleep with them.  But all at once

                     as if awakened, she turns her face to yours;
                     and with a shock, you see yourself, tiny,
                     inside the golden amber of her eyeballs
                     suspended, like a prehistoric fly.

—Rainer Maria Rilke, from The Rose Window and Other Verse from New Poems (Bulfinch Press, 1997)

Translated by Stephen Mitchell

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