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Black Cat
Rainer Maria Rilke



A ghost, though invisible, still is like a place
your sight can knock on, echoing; but here
within this thick black pelt, your strongest gaze
will be absorbed and utterly disappear:

just as a raving madman, when nothing else
can ease him, charges into his dark night
howling, pounds on the padded wall, and feels
the rage being taken in and pacified.

She seems to hide all looks that have ever fallen
into her, so that, like an audience,
she can look them over, menacing and sullen,
and curl to sleep with them. But all at once

as if awakened, she turns her face to yours;
and with a shock, you see yourself, tiny,
inside the golden amber of her eyeballs
suspended, like a prehistoric fly.

This poem is in the public domain.

Rainer Maria Rilke (1875 - 1926) is considered one of Germany's greatest poets, though he was actually born in Czechoslovakia. He did not have a happy childhood and forced military service later in life had a devastating effect on his work. He traveled extensively and suffered from poor health for many years, but still managed to produce a prodigious volume of poetry, prose, letters, and essays. Considered a transitional figure in moving public taste from traditional to modern poetry, Rilke's influence on contemporary life is enormous. His poems are quoted in every musical genre from country to jazz and are referenced in numerous movies and TV episodes.


Post New Comment:
Rilke is an absolute genius when it comes to taking a subject as simple as a black cat and evoking many levels of meaning subtly and surprisingly. Brilliant poem. DA
Posted 11/10/2014 02:42 PM
Dogs will run out the door and pause to see if anyone noticed. A cat runs out the door and never looks back. I love cats! Great poem.
Posted 10/21/2014 09:20 AM
My old black cat is such a mystery to me, as is this cat. Gort has injured one of his eyes so the one that remains clear does indeed seem suspended in the darkness like a prehistoric fly in amber. Very powerful images!
Posted 10/21/2014 08:44 AM

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