Rilke at the Jardin des Plantes
The zoo, said Rodin, go find your animal there
And learn its every mood & manner, every motion,
Then picture it in language (and get out of my hair).
Now the poet’s quick step extends his devotion,
To part curtain between intimacies, probe his way in.
Lips moist with morning mist touch the deeper breathing.
Soon he’ll know by seeing a dark obduracy burning.
He feels his fingers wandering the shapeless stone.
Turns a corner. There’s the cage, the sign, some straw.
But where’s the great cat he’s looking for—
In the empty cage, the emptiness is more.
Sailor on a black sea without stars. He paces the desolation of the cage,
Turns and paces back, an ever-tightening circle. And an ancient understanding
Exceeding measure sours unlike wine, ages without age,
And a sharp new negative presses him through the bars.