The Rose Window

by Rainer Maria Rilke

In there, the languid pacing of their paws
creates a stillness that can almost daze;
then one of the great cats abruptly draws
your gaze (which periodically strays)

forcefully into its great eye, and there
your gaze, held fast as if within the whirl
of a maelstrom, stays afloat a little while,
then sinks below and knows itself no more,

when that same eye, which only seems to drowse,
snaps open and then roars as it slams shut,
dragging your gaze inside its own red blood—

so, long ago, the giant window-rose
of the cathedrals would snatch up a heart
from darkness and would drag it into God.


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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