Not for Reading

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
—pace Wittgenstein—who
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?

For baptism
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
Is 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.



Published by extrasimile

define: extra: excess, more than is needed, required or desired; something additional of the same kind. define: simile: a simile is a type of figurative language, language that does not mean exactly what it says, that makes a comparison between two otherwise unalike objects or ideas by connecting them with the words “like” or “as.” The reader can see a similar connection with the verbs resemble, compare and liken. Similes allow an author to emphasize a certain characteristic of an object by comparing that object to an unrelated object that is an example of that characteristic. define: extra: an minor actor in a crowd scene

7 thoughts on “Not for Reading

  1. I keep coming back to read this, Jim. I find it extraordinary that it’s the first poem you ever wrote. It’s too long for me to give a full commentary, I’m afraid. Still, some of the lines and concepts!
    “Our language can be seen as an ancient
    This made me think of John’s book about the human hive.

    “It even smells of death in this train. Dead mice
    Under the seats. Why would Marina think
    Of baptism here, his baptism?”
    The images of the train and birth and death all the commentary back and forth steams into a powerful paean somehow that is dark and filled with the beauty and sadness of rain.

    “For baptism
    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.”
    This seems to me to be the heart of the poem, the continuity of life through “Mort,” through the “horn to announce a new beginning,” “Of a life’s deep death in deep/Snow.” Inside our life death moves, through love, toward beginnings, always. It takes a moment to wrap your mind around the complex ideas conjured by these lines. They do not lead straight to conclusions, but instead image us into an understanding that is both chilling and a sense of deep celebration.

    “My blood coagulates and sinks
    Into the snow. I take to my heart:”
    The metaphysics of this, leading to correspondence again, and an expression of deep love, expresses the dichotomy at the heart of what you have attempted here. Blood, the stuff of life, sinking into snow that is cold and coagulates bloods, then the idea that Rilke took then to his coagulated heart to express a living love.

    You were a poet from your first poem on Jim. You were.

  2. That clarifies things quite a bit Jim! I’ve reread and pondered. I’ve also been rereading Rilke and Tvetsayeva.
    “Snow … wolves abound … and not a perfect trip
    Through the Alps.”
    — I love that Jim. How it encapsulates Life – although I have wrenched the lines out of context.
    I went back to the version of 2009. Quite different really isn’t it? And interesting to compare in both content and structure. Hard to say which I prefer.

  3. John, thanks for preserving. Actually, though, one correction: it’s Rilke on the train, not Wittgenstein. I can see where this is confusing, but I wanted to keep the situation subjective. Much of the information I took for this poem. (yes, I guess it is a poem) is from the book: ‘Letters: Summer 1926’. It’s the correspondence between Pasternak, Tsvetayeva and Rilke, in the year before Rilke died. It’s kind of tedious reading, the letters are excessively flowery, but worth knowing about. Wittgenstein exists in the text only in Rilke’s mind. And Rilke has somewhat of a misperception of what Wittgenstein is saying—no, he has a large misunderstanding, but it one that can be reconciled. I doubt if the real historical Rilke had any knowledge of W’s philosophy. It is 1926, after all and Wittgenstein’s Tartactatus has just been published. Wittgenstein did know Rilke’s work, however. I believe he gave him some money when he gave away his inheritance.
    So it’s Rilke’s situation we’re concerned about. But perhaps it is Wttgenstein’s philosophy that gives it its rightful place in the world. ‘What we cane not speak we must pass over in silence.’ Silence here could mean poetry, the art of saying what we cannot say. By the way, one thing I took out for this version is some long quotations from Keats. If you want to read the original, it’s dated July 2009.

  4. Well Jim: not for reading? But I’ve read it now, many times. A poem? Why sure it is! I take away from it a clear visual picture of Wittgenstein in that train, the Alps and snow, even the correspondence from Tsvetayeva. I’m not sure how Rilke got on board, and I don’t follow all the subterranean routes taken by your thoughts, but I can live with that – and anyway why should that matter to you?
    It’s interesting to see that this was where your blog began. And very well worth a reappearance after 400 posts, or miles. Keep going.

  5. Happy birthday Jim. I’ll be 70 August 15. I’ll have to get back to the poem. I read it, but it will take some thinking about before I comment.

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