The Poet’s Assent (An Ode to Rilke)

a9f03dab4540ebd5c3e9b4d0165571f2--rainer-maria-rilke-the-birdsThe poet Rainer Maria Rilke has been some sort of koan for me. February is the time of year that was a creative hurricane for Rilke, allowing him to finish The Sonnets to Orpheus and the Duino Elegies in 1922. In one week, Rilke completed the unfinished elegies, and from February 2 to February 23, Rilke completed all the 55 sonnets of the two parts of Sonnets to Orpheus

He then wrote to his long-time friend, the inimitable Lou Andreas-Salomé, that he had finished “everything in a few days; it was a boundless storm, a hurricane of the spirit, and whatever inside me is like thread and webbing, framework, it all cracked and bent. No thought of food.”

In the fall I had thrown myself into trying to understand the heart of Rilke, his poetic motive, as it were. This is a poetic attempt to get at some of what I think he was up to and how he got there. In the meantime, I am still diving in.


“Incline a while,” she said with a smile.
A simple life, simply styled.

So with legs outstretched and peering into
the Poet’s mind and querying:
what’s this queer soul really hearing?
what’s this mirror really mirroring?

Seeing into things and Being
Into emptiness beauty fleeing

The whole of his heart’s work
from the hole in his heart works

because he dug and dug for days
he found upon his tongue a praise

Upon a summer solstice morn
on the eve of World War
a poet bent his inner ear
and found the point drawing near

Descended deep until he found
a limit to his seeing eye
no more secrets could be spied
until he looked with loving eyes

without it there would not be
the Sonnets or the Elegies

Only with that descending tone
could he ascend – not merely up
but with the whole earth on its throne
and with an ear so different bent
with drums began: “ASSENT! ASSENT!”

Only heart bent circling love
could form a praise upon a tongue
could a faithful Yes be a sung
like a song from morning dove

Only then the jailbreak
of those images locked within
and from behind the bars of time
the Poet affirms the world again

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No Less Than Rain Am I

raincloudNot less than rain am I
What thought of flood or mud endured
when flung from ample glandular?

“Secrete!” commands the cloud.
“Release it all and fall to earth,
unleash your fine and furied mirth.”

Of life nor death but both
and that which strikes the heart of it
through an endless flowing forth

Suck up what can be drunk
Dip your eager, root it swelling.
Yes, sate your dipsomania.

Once flung, the deed is done
the wetting fills the gaps still dry
calm falling from a patient sky.

For now, a beat sustained
’tis but the mood and form of day
and tends to match her thirstiness.

But come the night of storm
When touch is lost with ordered land
No cloud will lend a calming hand:

A mood mercurial to varied motions lend
an amorous discourse earthward bends:

of sudden pace it abandons form
to whipping gale spinning uttering thundered breathless patterns pounding
lightnings’ tonguish flame in wettest
omni-operant flicked and folded
orgasmatic undulating
inundation slams!
and meets her gaping, groping
in old and ancient passion play.

“Too much! But More!” the ground it cries.
“Our mouths entaste in gulps of you
Let us resting, digest it full.”

Then dawn dips in again,
Absorbing night’s emissive mission.

The land is clear and still.
The sky, and I, reposed fulfilled.
and new, fine feature geologe.

Not less than she, do I
this etch upon the face of things
does flow-a river, freshly born.

To where she goes, do I
from whence she came, like rain, is round
and wrung from sky spectacular.

Yet night is nought, but mark
’tis on its way around again
to give its gust(o)racular.

Not less the rain am I
Nor less the wind, and storm unleashed
Obeying throbbing pulsity.
To spend itself again, again
In hallowed-born necessity.

Ruthless As Any Angel

persimmon dawnRuthless as any angel
you asked for a commitment

in your radical way,
it was all or nothing

so with a deep roar
of primordial pain
I said Yes.

Yes, I said it.

and yeses came bubbling off my skin
like water boiling
flying off like mist

and yeses arrived like dancing worms in dirt
breaking down the scented world

I understood the terms of the deal
marked with that echoing Yes:

all that is not aligned must fall away
you shall abandon all the false homes
I may wake you at all hours, like a lover;
with but a touch, you’ll respond
my whisper will be your watchword
and you shall empty yourself for me
all the terrifying and beautiful beasts
will be your friends
we shall make a flowing river of glaciers
and dust off the moon
the overwhelming fountain of things
will pour into and out of us
and things as pure as a spider bite
a horsekick a persimmon dawn a broken bone a new kiss
will sing themselves into the stardust world

Yes.

Signed with black feather in rainbow ink,
-me

How Poems Arrive

Swarm Landing Poultry Ducks Waterfowl Water Funny

They arrive
like coyotes calling at 2am
during the Full Cold Moon

I step outside to gather
the yellow and orange leaves
that the fierce winter wind has thrown
to the ground with such a fury
that I miss most of them

but some I catch
and arrange in a pattern
not as pretty as they looked on the tree
but I’d rather them not go to waste

poems can arrive like those
little waves on the lake
after the duck lands
or
a barely audible whisper
from an ancient grove

or louder, like a chorus of crickets
the rush of a river,
a flow over falls

A poem can burst open like a seed

or often just settle in slowly
like a deep breath
and climb up spirally
a bean vine
around a pole

To Begin

monkey jumpTo begin
requires a leaping

not a crawling,
a creeping,
nor a sleepwalking

It is said:
you get to the top of the mountain
step by precious step

It’s true – I’ve proved the theory.

But to find YOUR mountain
to decide to walk it
with the authority of your two feet

that is the Leap

and then to commit
to not returning
to the old place

So stand up and put on your jumping shoes

whether it’s a soft or hard springing board
is irrelevant
if your heart is ready:

Leap!

Leap up and lick the sky
with the genius of your tongue.