Published on Academy of American Poets (

Let Everything Happen to You

As a girl I made my calves into little drinking elephants,
I would stare at the wonder of their pumping muscles,
the sup of their leg-trunks. I resuscitated a bunny once
from my cat’s electric teeth. I was on neighborhood watch
to save animals, as many as I could. My damage was easy.
My plainspoken voice is a watercolor. I’m afraid of it
as I’m afraid of what the world will do to color. I don’t
think I’ve done much. A table leans against itself
to be a table. I hold nothing but this air. I give it off.
I want a literature that is not made from literature, says Bhanu.
Last night my legs ached a low-tone. I imagined the body
giving itself up for another system. Dandelions tickling
out of my knee. The meniscus a household of worms.
It is okay to bear. My apartment hums in a Rilke sense.
A pain blooms. I am told that it’s okay to forego details
of what happened. I am told it doesn’t matter now.
I want to write sentences for days. I want days to not
be a sentence. We put men in boxes and sail them away.
Justice gave me an amber necklace. I tried to swallow
as many as I could.


Copyright © 2015 by Natalie Eilbert. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 30, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets

About this Poem

“A friend recently reminded me of this Rilke poem from The Book of Hours, which begins, ‘God speaks to each of us as he makes us, / then walks with us silently out of the night.’ As a girl, I experienced traumas enough to make me feel I didn’t even exist, that I was some manifold spirit of many subjects and objects. There’s a line in the Rilke poem, ‘Let everything happen to you,’ which is both an admission and an ecstatic gesture, and I wanted this poem to capture those existential, sublime feelings alongside terror, revenge, etc. The quiet of Rilke’s poem allowed in all these things.”

Natalie Eilbert


Natalie Eilbert

Natalie Eilbert is the author of Indictus (Noemi Press, 2018), winner of Noemi Press's 2016 Poetry Prize, and Swan Feast (Bloof Books, 2015).

Date Published: 2015-07-30

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