—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.
From Blue Rose by Carol Muske-Dukes, published by Penguin Poets, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright © 2018 by Carol Muske-Dukes.