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Years After Rilke’s Death the Housekeeper is Asked How She Lived at Château de Muzot
After Agha Shahid Ali
What served for a young woman’s days? A life in silence?
This house was built with its own vow, a wife in silence.
His quiet—a forest to shelter bellflower, elk, rose.
For years, we slept, we dreamt—the stars’ afterlife in silence.
How did the Tower hold us–with ghosts? storm? and stone?
Does even God have the will for a life in silence?
Of our pear tree—only taste remains– summer left, a guest.
Memories rise—a kite, I hold its twine in silence.
She who makes the bed and bathes the floor. She rubs the spot
of moonlight, irons the night in silence.
do you feel the power/of your breath … to fill the space [i]
December severed all sound, forged a knife in silence.
After candles were lit in the chapel—the wine drunk—
we watched the Rhone’s rush to stillness, stillness iced in silence.
What moved slowly in winter—the needles—the blanket I knit.
A glass of rum to halt my cough, a bride price in silence.
Who says I am less of a woman because I gave
my life to a man, has never held a life in silence.
How the wind welcomed his death—the land its snow;
I wept, I prayed—his every word a wife in silence.
The night is indigo, the rain too. It says Frida—
loss is incarnadine—death a valentine in silence.
[i] “do you feel the power/of your breath … to fill the space” is from Rilke’s Sonnets to Orpheus 2, 29.