Some people die in sorrow,
some, despite the sleeping shadows,
die like a metaphor.
They compare the earth
to some final value, and
they want to weave the forest
into something good:
some good new man and woman,
some good new breeze,
some good new plant
that lives like an onion
at the bottom of the sea
and watches in wonder
at its huge bulbous skin
as it swims slowly towards
Some people die in sorrow,
But look, the morn in russet mantel clad
walks over the dew of yon high eastward hill.[i]
What he says:
Of course I cannot see his distress.
A blackened bowl is one that makes the most
of the daylight. He is alone, left in the fortress
to have a conversation with a ghost—
‘I want to hold you close,’ is all I say.
Do you believe in ghosts? No light glints from
my disproportionate sight; he had to pray
to me to keep his life, his form, his sum.
All fury is at my dispensation now. To stare,
I see four eyes eyeing my eyes,
one pair medical and concerned, the other pair,
too young to know that death is never fair.
All are seeing in me what he suddenly fears—
the nastiness of ripening him to tears.
What I say:
If only life were like a soapsuds bubble,
or a balloon in a fresh breeze, or dancers
on a ballroom floor—if transience was not
the very essence of a life—but only
its tragic conclusion, if only we
could do to life what it does to us—
experienced dancers all—and make each ghost
see that all hot bodies should not end so cool.
‘Sir, I am not what fear is about.’
It’s shouted plain, but is not heard—
even when poured into a shapeless ear—
because even when it’s whispered, all
that is remembered is a stateless tear—
left to glisten here on another unmade bed.
For Anna Mark
My poems feel overdressed
when I read your poetry. [i]
I love their nakedness—
or, as modesty would have it,
I love the bathing suits they wear—
worn fully without clinging.
Yes, my clothing does cling—
like everything else—
too much these days.
Of course, one’s clinging to life
is the source and model of all clinging—
and to the life of your children,
the others , whose very otherness
can make it more precious and still—
How this poem clings to its loved ones,
holds then tight, then forgives them
enough to let them swim out
a little further and still further…
It could be a model for the world.
I wish I could swim with them too,
even when your feet touch other shores.
[i] I am talking about Anna Mark’s poem The Lake, which you need a password to access. I will reprint it here with Anna’s permission.
. She wears the deep water —
….. the clear dress soaks
……her shoulder length hair.
If only my words, if only my love,
were that sweet water,
that ancient lake you jump into wholly,
playful and free,
living water to your sense of joy, innocence and trust,
darkness beyond the depths of our sight,
beyond reach yet willing to be known,
worn fully without clinging,
rapture without entering too deeply, too soon,
as explored mystery captivating awe —
fear and wonder;
a mother’s caress reflecting light,
eroding the places that harden,
where you’d thrive with me,
your strong root in me for when you shed me,
when your feet touch shores,
when you leave,
when it’s time for you to go,
when you emerge —
.for my daughters
Unearthly, he thought.
I fled the earth; you fled the water.
Only the sky remained serene.
In your refction, I find
the glass head. It sparks and speaks.
Your head shakes in a mouse’s
self-awareness that is monstrous.
To eat the mouse
you tear apart his skin.
Between your lips—
you preen them so—
the mouse is like a fruit of the water.
As the rain begins, the clouds,
black as custard, are unearthly.
My eyes obey a justice too inert
to be a thing in itself.
You cannot see a glass head in
a transparent world, he thought.
We feed the earth;
the sky darkens;
the rain stops.
This is the other side of the block,. One of two small private parks.
This picture was inspired by Thomas Davis’s picture of Potwatomi State Park.Where my wife and i go walking couldn’t be more different. I don’t actually walk–I hobble along on my crutches. But that’s a story for another day. The picture is of the UN and the surrounding property. We walk on a small outcropping of rock the forms two hills known as Tudor City.This view is on one side. Stay tuned for a view of the other side.
This is my four hundredth post on extrasimile. It is also my 69th birthday. It seems appropriate to include the first ‘poem’ I ever wrote (slightly amended)—if that’s what it is.
Our language can be seen as an ancient
Surely meant a baptized city, for
The names come only with the blessing…
And even though he boards in Muzot, finds
A seat with a window so he can watch
The rain, a pad and pen and swollen eyes—
His naming is no longer for the living,
He knows that. Squatting, old, narrow-gauge trains:
He studies his reflection in the dark tunnel.
In the glass: There is swelling, that
Awful puffiness, rust in the throat…
Mimetic passion, not rocket science.
Yet still it rains; the rails, become archaic
Through the Goddard Pass,
His final way of seeing mountain peaks.
In 1926 as the snow melts…
He stops. The correspondence…
Tsvetayeva has written:
Your name is poetry! Exclaims:
Your name is poetry! But she always
May I hail you like this!
Your baptism was the prologue to
The whole of you.
It even smells of death in this train. Dead mice
Under the seats. Why would Marina think
Of baptism here, his baptism?
Herr Rilke, may I help you?
Read death, read mort, but not for ‘mortal’, for
A mort is only played if some music
Is needed at the blessing. Mort:
A horn will sound announcing death,
A horn to announce a new beginning,
Of a life’s deep death in deep
Snow…wolves abound…and not a perfect trip
Through the Alps.
Marina Leukemia on his
Baptism into the ancient city:
Herr Rilke your very name
Is a poem. You are a phenomenon
Of nature. The poet who comes after you
My dear, Rainer; my soul, my Maria,
My blood coagulates and sinks
Into the snow. I take to my heart:
One poet only lives, and now and then
Who bore him, and who bears him now, will meet.
And never meet. (There is one only) in
A lightning field, canaries in a cage—
How could we meet?
The world betrays us,
I know, for a field of fire, for poetry
Is correspondence from a great distance
Made only greater by our love.
Great honor, great poet.
(signed) Not for reading. Marina.