Rilke’s Walk With The Old Man

One day, Rilke joined the old man

on his walk along the river, and asked:

“Why are you looking down?”


“I am half-blind now, uneasy

because of the uneven pavement slabs, and…”

“But the river!” Rilke said. “The river!”


November. The month my father died.

We drove him from the hospital, home to die.

To die… what does it mean?

Grey and misty, leaves yellow, wet, then, as now.

He still could walk, speak, remember;

came to the window once to call

my mother to the telephone.

How he had said, in his own way,

that he was ready.

In bed, listening to music he loved,

struggling to find words.

The last night, mother and I at his bedside,

candles at the head, trying to pray,

despairing, suddenly quiet,

then, for the first time,

completely silent: waiting.


Each breath more shallow than the last.

Then, silence. We were all silent.

They call it death… ┬ábut nothing had changed-

except for one thing- his face relaxed, relaxed completely.

Extraordinary, beautiful.

Whose face was that?


The old man looked up. Blue sky,

the sun was even warm, the wide tidal river

shining back to heaven, saying:

“This is my response, you are there, I am here,

now there is light, but I know that when it’s grey

and I am sullen and morose, you are still there, maintaining all.”

Can I remember, remember to reply?

My little voice is much less important than I think,

but it is needed too.


Tilo Ulbricht