-- Morituri te salutamus. Los Angeles Times, 1927 Maybe it's not the city you thought it was. Maybe its flaws, like cracks in freeway pylons, got bigger, caught your eye, like swastikas on concrete stacks. Maybe lately the dull astrologies of End, Millennium-edge rant about world death make sense. Look. Messages the dead send take time to arrive. When the parched breath of the Owens River Valley guttered out, real voices bled through the black & white. The newspaper ad cried, We who are about to die salute you. Unarmed, uncontrite. Gladiators: a band of farmers, entrenched. And how many on the Empire's side recognized the bitter history of that Bow? Greed drenches itself in a single element, unsurprised. Like strippers, spotlit. Tits and asses flash red-gold, while jets shriek above. Rim-shot. History, like a shadow, passes over a city impervious as a bouncer's shove to dreams. Images tell you what's imaginable. Here comes another ton. We bathe in what's re-routed from the source: a fable of endless water in a dipper made of tin.
—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.