The Alchemist

He capped a flask and hissed a quiet curse —
Bleakly smiling, tapped a switch to bleed
A pressure vessel. (Clearly what he needs,
To manufacture his own Universe,
Is time — not years — millennia of time
And funding ready to withstand the strain
Of a black hole. He needs stars in his brain
And something like the ocean in his mind.)
A project which, at length, had gripped his thinking
That final night he jettisoned — he gave
It back to God. (Clearly the scale was wrong!)
Muttering like one who has been drinking
He slumped upon his record safe and craved
The simple chunk of gold there all along.

~ From the German of Rainer Maria Rilke. This translation copyright © 1998, 2001 by Leonard Cottrell.