Upon Hearing a Rilke Poem


It is Sunday. This is the day when Frank gets us coffee and donuts from Dunkin’ Donuts and buys his Sunday Boston Globe and spends the greater part of the morning reading. I spend time on the computer, usually on Facebook sharing posts and responding to posts made in my post-polio support group. It is a very serious group with people experiencing debilitating disability and desperation about the progressive nature of our syndrome.

But today there is a lightness in my heart, and a freedom from my usual obsessive worrying about the future. In a rare state of tranquility, I am able to just experience the present and be thankful and grateful for the peace and beauty in my life.

I am not in pain. Not physically or psychically, and that is a blessing worth noting. I am comfortable in a way that eluded me in the past. My physical and emotional needs are being met. I am not struggling.

I was listening to Boston Public Radio this morning and they had a guest on who is a Buddhist ecological philosopher. She is eighty-one years old. She has been a translator and worked on Rainer Maria Rilke’s poetry for years. During the segment about her life, she read several of Rilke’s poems. I was moved enough to want to buy Rilke’s works. Being a poet myself, I am a little bit ashamed that I wasn’t familiar with his work, but I am well-written, but not well-read.

The poetry was gorgeous. The ones she chose to read focused on spirituality and death, but the beauty of the imagery elevated the subjects to a level of experience that was transcendent. Rilke believed, as I do, that life ends at death, but we must make peace with death and use our lives to fully experience all the possibility of our humanity. The natural world plays a large part in his expression, and it was in this that I found an inspiration so very real to me completely uplifting.

I used to get high when I entered an art museum or thumbed through one of my art books. I never experienced this by reading poetry. Until now. The high is a result of having the poetry read to me aloud, the way it is intended, by someone who is in love with those written words. I forget her name, but I’ll never forget her voice.

Today, for all of you, I wish the transcendence from your everyday to a high of delight and wonder. Whether it be art, poetry, or some other pursuit of your own, I hope you find meaning in your life and can rise above your problems, even if just for a moment.

To the everlasting light in our lives,




Poem – Drunk as Drunk on Neruda

Did you taste that thirsty pause
between our grasping laughter?
We peeled away the years
of disembodied closeness
we’d built like dunes covered
by disinterested waves
that made their sterling debut
late in that clean afternoon.

That open pause like
the mouths of lovers eating a kiss-
I traced the movement of your lips
as you taught me Cockney slang.
I could only spit out Harvard yard.
I drank the Caribbean high noon,
and you sipped on beans from Brazil.
Love tried to intervene
to expose our mindless mime.

Finally, it was poetry that united us.
We worked together on a poem
we both wished we had written
that spoke the unspeakable
of what was or could be between us,
that forced us into the third person
and stole deafness from my wishes.
We made love to the printed page,
and said goodbye without a touch.

Poem – Song for Unattainable Men

Song for Unattainable Men
I’ve been waiting, have you dreamt of me?
since I penetrated your left eardrum
with my flute solo, the one I played for you
on that slick cardboard and scotch-taped instrument.
I was a virtuoso then, at ten,
and I’m still waiting.

Have you dreamt my melody?
I see the opening in your ear sucking
on the flirtatious patter of overgrown girls
with your eye for propriety
and lust for that candy, that syrup,
those vapors, while I play.

My flute is sterling now; I play it solo.
Open-holed like your ear and I thought
the two of you would get along.
Snakes do their bidding, as I seduce them
for their venom, but my song dies
in empty chambers when you hear.

Maybe, though, I could be wrong.
Maybe my music fills your dreams
with liquid crescendos, my silver grip,
and you with your sense of propriety
and place can tolerate clatter and chat
but awaken shaken with my solo in your song.

Do you turn to the medicine cabinet
in navy hours of the night
looking for liniment and swabs
to comfort tears that your ear cries?
Tears that weep from the hole
I put in your dreams one night.

Poem – Anaphoric Ride

The train grinds to life, eating virgin track.
Passengers shift and move around like silverfish.
The tired man has a window seat.
Picking up speed, the train passes through…

A place that looks like the Grand Canyon
but is really the black hole of his longings.
Being a thin man, he longs for many things.

A place where only Portuguese is spoken
and he finds the only word he understands is “gringo.”
He knows that means him.

A place where bulimic cats toss dishes into the sink
and spray graffiti over the refrigerator, implicating
their owners in hideous crimes.

A place where Siamese twins marry brothers
and each have eleven children, no twins.
He knows this could only happen in Siam.

A place where he is born into a vortex of vowels
that envelop him in their amniotic way,
as they hunger for something solid.

A place where he finds he is the starlet in a snuff film
and it is fitting somehow. He wants to finish this page anyway,
discontinue this B-rated romance.

A place where the aging cashier has a four inch thumbnail,
painted pink, with her black hair tied up in a bow and he asks himself,
“And I thought money was dirty?”

A place where he wonders in the train what everyone else thinks about ‘eye contact,’ because he is making eye contact. Then he realizes that you aren’t supposed to make eye contact, and now the rest of the train ride is just hard work staring at someone’s shoes, shifting to a purse, to a newspaper, to wishing this ride was over, to a book, to a uniform, to a reflection in the window…

To a place where the train never stops.

Poem – Sleepwalker


Kachinas come in slumber,
her black molasses eyes beneath lids
for dreams
but kachinas come and dance,
shake her with nocturnal solutions
to the day’s murals in motion.

She rises to greet them in their
silent feather dress, their
masks alive with shifting paint.
Moving the mirror overhead,
she enters the turquoise of her need.

At dawn break the kachinas
go back to their world
and the mirror with the image of her eyes
has the new significance
of a novel written while entranced,
an ochre moon at twilight.

Poem –┬áThe Lovely Lure of Home


There’s nothing like a pubic hair
on the tissue box to tell you you’re home
and you peel off your socks like
the skins of little neck clams, throwing them
in opposite directions purposely so
they look just as worn and alone as you are.

There’s nothing like mold in the vegetable bin
that smells like home since you’ve been out
and dressed proper and all with dead ants
holding onto the tread of your shiny shoes
and a few let go onto your neighbor’s mauve carpet
but you stand on them chatting to Chicklets.

There’s nothing like eating eggs for a week
then deciding you only wanted eggs anyway
and at least you always have coffee and milk
and of course, butts, but the eggs seem to turn
the ceiling brown and your eyes yellow but
at least you’re home listening to mice sing a cappella.

At least you’re home, that’s the main point
til’ you run out of things or have to attend
a function of the public sort and then
you put on your shiny hair and brush your shoes
and buy Chicklets by the dozen, fixing to stuff
smokes in the grinning cellophane box to go out.