Joseph’s Suspicion

by Rainer Maria Rilke

The angel spoke to him and took great pains
to reach the man, whose hands were tightly balled:
“But don’t you see that in her every fold
she is as cool as God’s own early morn?”

Yet back at him the other darkly stared,
muttering just “What’s made this change in her?”
But then the angel cried out, “Carpenter,
you still don’t see the working of our Lord?

Because you make wood boards, would you, in pride,
really presume to call him to account
who unassumingly from that same wood
makes boughs burst into leaf and blossoms sprout?”

He understood. And as he raised his gaze
toward the angel, truly frightened now,
it wasn’t there. Slowly from his brow
he pushed the heavy cap. Then he sang praise.



Susan McLean

Susan McLean, a retired professor of English from Southwest Minnesota State University, has published two books of poetry, The Best Disguise (2009) and The Whetstone Misses the Knife (2014), as well as one book of translations of the Latin poet Martial, Selected Epigrams (2014). Her poetry has won the Richard Wilbur Award and the Donald Justice Poetry Prize, and her book of translations was a finalist for the PEN Center USA Translation Award. Her translations have also appeared in Transference, First Things, Presence, Subtropics, Measure, and elsewhere.


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