Let this darkness be a bell tower and you the bell

I was eating lunch in between meetings yesterday when I found out that a friend of mine, Martin Fortier-Davy, passed away from cancer this weekend in his early 30s. He was an incredibly vibrant life force whom I had first met when he was a visiting scholar at Stanford a few years ago. He had been in treatments on and off for awhile now, but I still find myself in that strange haze of shock that envelopes us when we learn that someone we know is gone.

In my last correspondence with him, I had shared this poem by Ranier Marie Rilke, which I’ve shared on this blog and with some of you before during difficult moments. I offer it now again to all of you in memory of Martin. His family said that his last words were  “Aimez-vous, et prenez soin les uns des autres”– Love one another and care for one another.” An invocation for us all.

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Yosemite National Park. 2015. Photo by me.

“Sonnets to Orpheus II, 29”

Quiet friend who has come so far,
feel how your breathing makes more space around you.
Let this darkness be a bell tower
and you the bell. As you ring,

what batters you becomes your strength.
Move back and forth into the change.
What is it like, such intensity of pain?
If the drink is bitter, turn yourself to wine.

In this uncontainable night,
be the mystery at the crossroads of your senses,
the meaning discovered there.

And if the world has ceased to hear you,
say to the silent earth: I flow.
To the rushing water, speak: I am.

translated by Anita Barrows

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