I Am Too Alone In The World, And Not Alone Enough

By Rainer Maria Rilke, translated by Robert Bly

I am too alone in the world, and not alone enough
to make every minute holy.
I am too tiny in this world, and not tiny enough
just to lie before you like a thing,
shrewd and secretive.
I want my own will, and I want simply to be with my will,
as it goes toward action,
and in the silent, sometimes hardly moving times
when something is coming near,
I want to be with those who know secret things
or else alone.
I want to be a mirror for your whole body,
and I never want to be blind, or to be too old
to hold up your heavy and swaying picture.
I want to unfold.
I don’t want to stay folded anywhere,
because where I am folded, there I am a lie.
And I want my grasp of things
true before you. I want to describe myself
like a painting that I looked at
closely for a long time,
like a saying that I finally understood,
like the pitcher I use every day,
like the face of my mother,
like a ship
that took me safely
through the wildest storm of all.



Many thanks to Billie Ortiz for introducing me to this poem.

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11 thoughts on “I Am Too Alone In The World, And Not Alone Enough”

  1. It seems ironic to me that I recently had a revelation in a private Feldenkrais session I received, that the true parts of myself are actually in the folds, so maybe both ideas are true.

    1. Maybe for Rilke the folded parts remained unconscious, and so in that sense a “lie” because not fully integrated, whereas for you, the parts in the folds are conscious, and so true.

  2. As I was talking to my practitioner about my fold discovery, she let me hold these soft forms she has been crocheting based on mathematical equations that often show up in cora formations. Holding that shape in my hand and feeling how it could easily fold, expand, and shapeshift, really helped me sense more possibilities of soft change and allowing in myself. It would be fun to crochet with Rilke to see what we could conjure.

    1. Ah
      Gentleness and ease
      Agency and softness integrate in these
      Your folds

      My plie grimp aspects taken from my person
      Quand in my necessary state of openness
      I stuffed those frauds into pockets // grooves slung into whispered tunnels
      choking raw, acid takes my breath, my voice,
      When you begin to see my folds
      You witness the weathering exposed
      From meandering in my path to belong

      My secrets fold darkness, ambiguity, grit
      this my pleated fortress calling out/on the cruel of my assasins taking their priveledges innuendo of my beingx

  3. Thanks for posting this, Laura. As you know, I call this poem my “personal anthem,” often reciting it aloud to myself in my car whenever I feel particularly vulnerable and misunderstood. 🙁

    Listening to a Michael Meade tape the other day, he recited the Rilke poem (below) and it really resonated for me at the time (seeing as we work with the symbol of paradox so often!):

    As Once the Winged Energy of Delight

    As once the winged energy of delight
    carried you over childhood’s dark abysses,
    now beyond your own life build the great
    arch of unimagined bridges.

    Wonders happen if we can succeed
    in passing through the harshest danger;
    but only in a bright and purely granted
    achievement can we realize the wonder.

    To work with Things in the indescribable
    relationship is not too hard for us;
    the pattern grows more intricate and subtle,
    and being swept along is not enough.

    Take your practiced powers and stretch them out
    until they span the chasm between two
    contradictions…For the god
    wants to know himself in you.

    Rainer Maria Rilke

    1. Wow…I had to really slow down to find the resonance in this, but once I did, I really felt it. I love the last stanza especially. Thanks, Billie!

  4. And here’s the translation by Robert Bly:


    Just as the winged energy of delight
    carried you over many chasms early on,
    now raise the daringly imagined arch
    holding up the astonishing bridges.

    Miracle doesn’t lie only in the amazing
    living through and defeat of danger;
    miracles become miracles in the clear
    achievement that is earned.

    To work with things is not hubris
    when building the association beyond words;
    denser and denser the pattern becomes
    being carried along is not enough.

    Take your well-disciplined strengths
    and stretch them between two opposing poles.
    Because inside human beings
    is where God learns.

    — Rainer Marie Rilke (1924)
    translated by Robert Bly

  5. “I want to unfold.
    I don’t want to stay folded anywhere,
    because where I am folded, there I am a lie.”
    other translation:: ” I want to unfold
    Nowhere I wish to stay crooked, bent;
    for there I would be dishonest, untrue.”
    Can someone elaborate the meanings of fold and lie?????
    Thank you very much !!

    1. In Rilke’s poem in German, the relevant passages speak of ‘entfalten’, which could mean unfold, but also something liek ‘unwrinkle’. The next ‘folded’ is ‘gebogen’ in the original, definitely ‘bent’ or ‘crooked’ and rhymes with ‘gelogen’.
      I read it to mean he does not want to be forced to adjust to moulds that do his true self no justice; e.g., adhere to societal norms that do not satisfy his inner voice. It is the antagonism of deep self and superficial appearance dictated by environment.

  6. I am too alone in this world? Some times I use to think why man created the money it vanished all the relation between human every human became selfish always think about them.

    We use to speak false to make money, there is no true in life.

    What is going to happen to this world??????????????

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