—Tom Goff, Carmichael
Who that’s read the poems of Herr Rilke
hasn’t seen the oddball small emoticons
everywhere in them? Oh, not quite emojis,
yet signals pungent long before our logon-
logoff world. You know what I mean. :— und —:
punctuations for registering awe and shock
at cosmic arches, night and distance, augenblick
und earthquake-intake of breath, all das gesundheit
sweet sneeze-felicitation, agony, wonder
expressed in —. The heartfelt pause the panther
senses, the stopped-dead pulse of cage-perception,
the rose’s tremor (: ), smiling lacrymose thunder
till it exits, Mach 1 quivering out the anther,—
silencing our antennae’s weak reception.
Now the pulsation, bright blink & solemn nose —:
desists mid-message—, knows what each poet knows,
or any human: take Rilke himself (: und das,
und das ist wirklich nichts:—full stop…at last… :)?
The bird is blurred that was so crisply dead.
It lies still where the one-bird bird strike occurred,
from window glass bounced as if from so much lead,
now a faded pressed bloom in the book of the Word,
flat placeholder in between onionskin air and air.
Ruined sun and rain, unreachable for disposal
high on its ledge, it answered an urge to lair,
nest, forage, pierce barricades in the unseen wind-crystal.
Oh, two semesters—starling? No, a swallow—
it’s lain, serenading no one but me, I believe,
to tell me a huge lone universe glistens in corpses,
in all the cerebral asphyxias, failures to thrive.
Bird sings how small histories blister—in schools, in coppices—
then warbles of disconnect, students I’ve failed to follow.
Palmyra, mine for a beautiful brief era:
you grew tall pillars white and soft as legs,
grew adamant acanthus-work that pegs
your soft petal-spikes and leaf-flutes to bone-marrow
marble, grafting capitals to slim columns,
for yours is Corinthian hair done up to pillow
that sweet and oppressive blue above, whose billows
add weight to the lovely head they rest or fall on.
Your bearing more admirable since the lumbers
and burdens you uphold can’t dislodge your sense
for proportion: that abacus in you knows to flense
ideals from solids. Crowned and adorned by numbers,
you’re grace in speechless fractions displacing tons.
You live in one pair of bare legs: she leaps, she runs.
When you, my Palmyra, unlimber to Syrian sky
columnar fragments like so many cannons
aimed at the gods, and when I see the tannins
and acids darken your marmoreal skin,
I see still your ideality and blessing
transcendent—thanks to the man-god carving you
in beveled concaves of groove-line and volutes
of ramhorn-scrollwork—over treachery
and slaughter incarnate, empire. You are all girl,
and so like a girl most vulnerable to brutality,
disfigurement. Iconoclastic cruelty
too soon must fall on those lacy tendrils of curl
at play alongside your rose-white ear, that auricle
pregnant with ions—my voiceless almost-oracle.
In a long novel I read—among your columns,
a feral dog snaps, defending suckling whelps
unseen by our heroine. This wild she-dog helps
our lady somehow fathom her years of solemn
denial, trust instinct, mend a long estrangement.
Palmyra, your magic: tenderness steeped in derangement.
Beauty so oddly adores the primal woman,
skin smooth from birth, caressable enough
—she punctures all this water-fine first human
translucence with designs, wounds, roughneck-tough
or laced like tracework gauze on sleepwalk canvas.
I blanched at first to see such weird caprices
now aquatint my Dorothy’s pure Kansas
between soft sandals & dark brown capris, Oz
over pale calves and backs of ankles with roses.
Such sweet stigmata, all non-native growth,
green stemwinders a needle-sting imposes.
Port-wine-stain petals corrupt soft kaolin earth.
Yet what have you lost? Your pearls-in-cirrus clear skin?
I see you transfigured. Stained glass, desire & sin.
—Geoffrey S. Fletcher
—Medusa, with thanks to Tom Goff and Keely Dorran for today's fine gourmet work!