Go to the Limits of Your Longing

     by Rainer Maria Rilke


God speaks to each of us as he makes us,

then walks with us silently out of the night.


These are words we dimly hear:

You, sent out beyond your recall,

go to the limits of your longing.

Embody me.


Flare up like flame

and make big shadows I can move in.


Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.

Just keep going. No feeling is final.

Don’t let yourself lose me.


Nearby is the country they call life.

You will know it by its seriousness.


Give me your hand.



From Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God, translated by Joanna Macy and Anita Barrows (New York: Riverhead Books, 2005). Listen to a recording of this poem read by Joanna Macy. Also see my haibun, Hearing the Owl,” which has a postscript referring to this poem.       +