We hold the present responsible for my hand
in your hand, my thumb
as aspirin leaves a painless bruise, our youth
immemorial in a wormhole for silence
to rescue us, the heart free at last
of the tongue (the dream, the road) upon
which our hours reside together alone,
that this is love’s profession, our scents
on pillows displace our alphabet to grass
with fidelity around our wrists
and breastbones, thistle and heather.
And this steady light, angular
through the window, is no amulet
to store in a dog-eared book.
A body exits all pages to be
inscribed on another, itself.
—Rainer Maria Rilke, "Archaic Torso of Apollo"
The word’s augapfel—
meaning eyeballs or “apple of the eye.”
But we only have the torso of a god here.
Apollo’s abs! Not, the poet writes, his
“unknowable” head. Not his unseen immortal gaze.
But a god might materialize within a sudden turn of phrase:
those startled eyes,
arms and legs: sudden lamp-bright rays
from inside the bruised translucence of stone.
Then a “proud manhood” flaring—don’t look away!
See, this god doesn’t lust after your little life—or care.
It is his own Apollonian god-ness insisting on itself,
handfuls of gems shaken over that chest, blinding
us. Blinking as each rendering slides its straitjacket
over him as he spins, rocketing back into monument.
Translation is about freeing ourselves from our selves:
That older voice, from the back.
Long ago Dresden, she sat, a kid in kitchen lamplight,
a decade after nonstop bombs obliterated each strasse:
homes, hospitals, museums, towers: rotating
beams. She cut open an apple with a pocketknife,
watching its heart break into a five-pointed star,
that children then called augapfel.
Apple on a plate, Apollo’s petaled eye…
Searchlights rake each word’s perfect precedence.
There is nothing here that does not see you—
your word-history in ego’s funny destruction,
in linguist-selfies, a drone’s drone-sight. So follow Apollo now!
@ hashtag: You Must Change Your Life.
I’ve become the person who says Darling, who says Sugarpie,
Honeybunch, Snugglebear—and that’s just for my children.
What I call my husband is unprintable. You’re welcome. I am
his sweetheart, and finally, finally—I answer to his call and his
alone. Animals are named for people, places, or perhaps a little
Latin. Plants invite names for colors or plant-parts. When you
get a group of heartbeats together you get names that call out
into the evening’s first radiance of planets: a quiver of cobras,
a maelstrom of salamanders, an audience of squid, or an ostentation
of peacocks. But what is it called when creatures on this earth curl
and sleep, when shadows of moons we don’t yet know brush across
our faces? And what is the name for the movement we make when
we wake, swiping hand or claw or wing across our face, like trying
to remember a path or a river we’ve only visited in our dreams?
Accurate like an arrow without a target
and no target in mind.
Silence has its own roar or, not-roar,
just as Rothko wrote “I don’t express myself
in my paintings. I express my not-self.”
A poem that expresses the not-self.
Everything but the self.
The meadow’s veil of fog, but is veil self-referential?
Already, dawn, the not-birds alert to what silence has to offer.
The fog, one of Rothko’s shapes,
hanging there in the not-self, humming.
Mikel, before he died, loved Rothko most.
When he could still think, he put his mind
to those sorts of judgments.
If I pull the fog away like theater curtains, what then?
Sadness shapes the landscape.
The arrow of myself thwacks the nearest tree.
Fog steps closer like a perpetrator or a god.
Oh. I’m weeping.
Tears feed the silence like a mother drops
into her baby not-bird’s open beak
some sweet but dangerous morsel.
Someone told Mom it takes six months to realize
someone is no longer on the planet.
On a commuter plane from Portland to Seattle
it was exactly six months later,
on the tiniest plane in the world.
I broke out in hives
like a nun blushing all over for God—
a sweeping bloodshot victory
while the other feelings starve—
the plane shook, and I grabbed the leg of the woman sitting
next to me.
She looked taken aback, then returned to her real-
without a word
while silvery tears rolled down my face onto a
book called VALIS,
which was open onto the first page.
Strangers shake in the breeze of my cannonball looks—
out the round window I could see below me
and the same repeated genus of spruce.
I happened to have a pamphlet with me, Important Trees of
from 1968. I opened to the swamp cottonwood, which grows
in Mom’s front yard.
Whenever I fly
I feel that I’m being forced to accept my own death.
And now, simultaneously,
I was being forced to accept the death of someone
I knew that once I accepted it, I could accept the free sample
of local Washington beer in plastic party cups the
flight attendants came around with
like a blessed and bitter medicinal syrup
pulled from a prehistoric wheat.