Come, You (the death poem of Rainer Maria Rilke)

Come, You (the death poem of Rainer Maria Rilke)

A Poem by Michael R. Burch

Come, You
by Rainer Maria Rilke
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Come, you―the last one I acknowledge; return―
incurable pain searing this physical mesh.
As I burned in the spirit once, so now I burn
with you; meanwhile, you consume my flesh.

This wood that long resisted your embrace
now nourishes you; I surrender to your fury
as my gentleness mutates to hellish rage―
uncaged, wild, primal, mindless, outré.

Completely free, no longer future's pawn,
I clambered up this crazy pyre of pain,
certain I'd never return―my heart's reserves gone―
to become death's nameless victim, purged by flame.

Now all I ever was must be denied.
I left my memories of my past elsewhere.
That life―my former life―remains outside.
Inside, I'm lost. Nobody knows me here.

“Komm, Du” (“Come, You”) was Rilke's last poem, written ten days before his death. He died open-eyed in the arms of his doctor on December 29,1926, in the Valmont Sanatorium, of leukemia and its complications. I had a friend who died of leukemia and he was burning up with fever in the end. I believe that is what Rilke was describing here: he was literally burning alive. Keywords/Tags: Rilke, German, Translation, Life, Death, Death Bed, Last Words, Leukemia, Hospital, Sanatorium, Pain, Pyre, Fire, Flame, Burning Up, Fever, Consumed, Consumption, Flesh, Spirit, Loss, Lost, Unknown, Loneliness, Alienation

© 2020 Michael R. Burch


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Added on February 20, 2020
Last Updated on November 2, 2020
Tags: Rilke, German, Translation, Life, Death, Death Bed, Last Words, Leukemia, Hospital, Sanatorium, Pain, Pyre, Fire, Flame, Burning Up, Fever, Consumed, Consumption, Flesh, Spirit, Loss, Lost, Unknown