Years after She Bought Me a Copy of Rilke for My Birthday
The numinous! I loved it when she told me things were numinous.
I can hear her now, whenever I walk the battlements crunching
through ancient powdery guano of the archangels
with what must be one of their petrified feathers
stuck in my throat. Up here the planets are so cold, like nothing
else: not jewels, not gods, not the glittering nail heads tacking
everything together. Ach, du! Perhaps Jupiter is dying
to tell us something, I say to myself. But so many malfunctions!
So many simultaneous translations! Stumped by celestial thrum,
they’ll say such divine singing’s not meant
for the likes of me. At most, I’ll coin some cruel German word
to define my failure, a jaw-breaker flyblown
with umlauts and enough European nuance
to cipher my broken little heart: kleine dumme Herzschmerzen…
Ah, where’s the Countess with my tea? What further profundities
could she reasonably expect? My soul wadded up
and launched towards infinity? Our last-minute rescue
from that pitiless old moon or those ice and gravel rings of Saturn?
Michael Derrick Hudson
Review by Darren Demarree
“Up here the planets are so cold, like nothing” is just such a great line. I love the searching in this poem. It’s very stark, but it manages to have enough energy to make it very engaging.
Review by Laurinda Lind
It is hard to articulate what is so cool about this poem. It may be the archangels’ guano, or the equally cold jewels and planets, or the umlauts—but this works for me, and I’ll bet Rilke would like it, too.