In alleyways I sweep myself up
out of garbage and broken glass.
With my half-mouth I stammer you,
who are eternal in your symmetry.
I lift to you my half-hands
in wordless beseeching, that I may find again
the eyes with which I once beheld you.
I am a city by the sea
sinking into a toxic tide.
I am a stranger to myself, as though someone unknown
had poisoned my mother as she carried me.
It’s here in all the pieces of my shame
that now I find myself again.
—Rainer Maria Rilke (from The Book of Hours II, 2)