Paris, Winter 1913-14
You, the loved one lost
in advance, you who never arrived,
I don’t even know what sounds you like best.
No longer, when the future crests toward the present,
do I try to discern you. All the great
images in me—the landscape widening far off,
cities and towers and bridges and un-
suspected turns in the path
and the forcefulness of those lands
once intertwined with gods:
they all mount up in me to signify
you, forever not here.
You are the gardens.
With such hope
I saw them. An open window
in the country house–, and you almost
stepped out pensively to meet me. I found streets, –
you had just walked down them,
and sometimes the mirrors in the merchants’ shops
were still drunk with you and with a start
reflected my too-sudden image. –Who knows
if the same birdsong did not ring through both of us
yesterday, each of us alone, at evening?
Rainer Maria Rilke, (Untitled), The Poetry of Rilke, trans. and ed. Edward Snow, New York: North Point Press (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), 2009: 523.
And also this version, which is quite different.
by Ariana Reines, from Mercury
The size of what I know does not blow
Up enough to redeem the inadequacy of this
Moment where I can be seen
Seeming complete as a photograph is finished and hides
Everything, well not everything but so
Much of what I meant the moment it was taken
You have plenty of time is what everybody says, the stupidest
Thing I’ve ever heard
I don’t even fucking
Have time to write this right now
Flashing in the dark
Rotting on the vine
I’m not feeling strong yet, but I am taking
good care of myself. The weather is perfect.
I read and walk all day and then walk to the sea.
I expect to swim soon. For now I am content.
I am not sure what I hope for. I feel I am
doing my best. It reminds me of when I was
sixteen dreaming of Lorca, the gentle trees outside
and the creek. Perhaps poetry replaces something
in me that others receive more naturally.
Perhaps my happiness proves a weakness in my life.
Even my failures in poetry please me.
Time is very different here. It is very good
to be away from public ambition.
I sweep and wash, cook and shop.
Sometimes I go into town in the evening
and have pastry with custard. Sometimes I sit
at a table by the harbor and drink half a beer.
“I think Miriam was aware of her daughter’s deficiencies. I think her choice of reading – her insisting on Balzac and other French novelists – was done with an object. The French are great realists. I think she wanted Celia to realise life and human nature for what it is, something common, sensual, splendid, sordid, tragic, and intensely comic. She did not succeed, because Celia’s nature matched her appearance – she was Scandinavian in feeling. For her the long Sagas, the heroic tales of voyages and heroes. As she clung to fairy tales in childhood, so she preferred Materlinck and Fiona MacLeod and Yeats when she grew up. She read the other books, but they seemed as unreal to her as fairy stories and fantasies seem annoying to a practical realist.”
An Unfinished Portrait, Mary Westmacott (Agatha Christie)
The most useful line of French I have learnt so far: Non, je ne grandirai jamais.
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting–
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
I always mean to watch It’s A Wonderful Life at Christmas, but this was the first year I got a chance. I cried like a sap at the end, but had to laugh at a moment in the dramatic climax. George is seeing what life would be like if he had never been born – his friends and family have ended up dead, destitute, or in insane asylums, and his hometown has gone to wrack and ruin. But the one thing that tips him over the edge, which his guardian angel barely dares to tell him, is the fate of his wife, Mary.
Of course, George comes through and Mary is delivered back to her life of domestic, bookless bliss. PHEW.
No, I wasn’t meant to love and be loved.
If I’d lived longer, I would have waited longer.
Knowing you are faithless keeps me alive and hungry.
Knowing you faithful would kill me with joy.
Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib, trans. Vijay Seshadri (full text at Make Bright The Sparrows)
“True beauty is something that attacks, overpowers, robs, and finally destroys.”
— Yukio Mishima
Be helpless, dumbfounded,
Unable to say yes or no.
Then a stretcher will come from grace
to gather us up.
We are too dull-eyed to see that beauty.
If we say we can, we’re lying.
If we say No, we don’t see it,
That No will behead us
And shut tight our window onto spirit.
So let us rather not be sure of anything,
Beside ourselves, and only that, so
Miraculous beings come running to help.
Crazed, lying in a zero circle, mute,
We shall be saying finally,
With tremendous eloquence, Lead us.
When we have totally surrendered to that beauty,
We shall be a mighty kindness.
Image from American Vogue, January 2011