A Sibyl by Rainer Maria Rilke

Translated by Len Krisak (February 2014)


      Once, long ago, they called her old. But she

lived on, and down the same street, every day,

she came, until they had to change the way

they told her age, counting each century,


as if she were a forest. Still, she stood

there every night like some black citadel—

an ancient, rooted, burnt-out, towering shell

that never moved and never would.


Wild words, left unattended to, took flight;              

flocks, multiplied inside, against her will.               

Words circled her—eternally-screaming crows—                 

while those already back, now roosting, still,

darkened under the arches of her brows,

and waited, ready for the night.



Len Krisak has published in The London Magazine, The Oxonian Review, PN Review, Standpoint, Agni, The Antioch Review, The Sewanee Review, The Hudson ReviewThe Dark Horse, Agenda, The Hopkins ReviewCommonweal, Literary Imagination, The Oxford Book of Poems on Classical Mythology, and others. His latest book is Virgil’s Eclogues, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010. Forthcoming: The Carmina of Catullus, Carcanet Press, 2015, Afterimage, Measure Press, 2014, Rilke: New Poems, Boydell & Brewer, 2015 and Ovid: The Amores and The Ars Amatoria, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014.



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