Crucifixion by Rainer Maria Rilke
translated by Len Krisak (April 2014)
Long practiced prodding up the hill the mob
clambering Golgotha’s bare-gallows skull,
the heavy henchmen lay there in a lull,
with only now and then some beefy gob
turned up to gaze at three so all-consumed.
But still their killing—rushed beyond all measure;
sloppy, yet finished and perfected—loomed
above the free men lolling at their leisure . . .
Till one as splattered as a butcher “Sir”ed
his captain: “One of these three just cried out!”
The mounted captain turned (he thought he’d heard
it, too ), with “Which one?”Had there been some shout
or groan—a calling on Elijah? All
of them now burned to see with one desire.
And so, to stay Him from His final fall,
the greedy offered vinegar to gall
the dwindling cough with which He would expire.
For they still hoped for some dramatic stroke—
perhaps Elijah might materialize?
But then the distance echoed Mary’s cries,
as He himself roared out. And then He broke.
Len Krisak has published in The London Magazine, The Oxonian Review, PN Review, Standpoint, Agni, The Antioch Review, The Sewanee Review, The Hudson Review, The Dark Horse, Agenda, The Hopkins Review, Commonweal, 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.
To comment on this poem, please click here.
To help New English Review continue to publish original translations of classic poetry such as this, please click here.
If you have enjoyed this poem and want to read more by Len Krisak, please click here.