Annual Poetry Reading: Poetry’s Distant Voice

The Core presents a “set of two poems, which are the same poem” as phrased by Zachary Bos, one of the respected speakers at the Annual Poetry Reading this year on April 16th. The theme of the reading was “Poetry’s Distant Voice”, and here is Zachary Bos’ contribution:

From The Book of Hours I, 36

MacDiarmid, Hugh, 1892-1978 (trans.)
Rilke, Rainer Maria, 1875-1926 (orig.) :

What Will God Do?

What would God do if I should die.
I am his jar (if I should break?),
His fountain (if I should run dry?),
I am His consciousness, and make
All that he knows His Own Self by.

I am the sandals he must wear
Or with bare feet crave wearily.
If I should die and go not there
His Heaven would his prison be.

From my barr’n bones his cloak would drop,
His glance that on my cheeks depends,
As a tired head a cushion befriends,
Will founder if old Death extends
Dust for the comfort my life lends
Naught but a void where He may grope!

What will God do if my life ends?

( The Scottish Nation, 8 May 1923)


What Will You Do, God?
Translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy

What will you do, God, when I die?

I am your pitcher (when I shatter?)
I am your drink (when I go bitter?)
I, your garment; I, your craft.
Without me what reason have you?

Without me what house
where intimate words await you?
I, velvet sandal that falls from your foot.
I, cloak dropping from your shoulder.
What will you do, God? It troubles me.

Your gaze, which I welcome now
as it warms my cheek,
will search for me hour after hour
and lie at sunset, spent,
on an empty beach
among unfamiliar stones.
What will you do, God?  I am afraid.


Was wirst du tun, Gott, wenn ich sterbe?

Was wirst du tun, Gott, wenn ich sterbe?
Ich bin dein Krug (wenn ich zerscherbe?)
Ich bin dein Trank (wenn ich verderbe?)
Bin dein Gewand und dein Gewerbe,
mit mir verlierst du deinen Sinn.
Nach mir hast du kein Haus, darin
dich Worte, nah und warm, begrüßen.
Es fällt von deinen müden Füßen
die Samtsandale, die ich bin.
Dein großer Mantel lässt dich los.
Dein Blick, den ich mit meiner Wange
warm, wie mit einem Pfühl, empfange,
wird kommen, wird mich suchen, lange –
und legt beim Sonnenuntergange
sich fremden Steinen in den Schoß.
Was wirst du tun, Gott? Ich bin bange.

Rainer Maria Rilke, 26.9.1899, Berlin-Schmargendorf

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