Indirection

Several years ago, when I was reading Edward Snow’s translations of Rilke’s Book of Images* for the first time, I set about trying to write the mirror image of a Rilkean portrait. The end product was nowhere near his league, of course, but I still include it among those few I am willing to share because I like the way it describes without describing. Our theme being the via negativa, it seems appropriate to reproduce it here.

NUDE

A pile of shed
garments on
the hardwood floor
rising in layers
of ever thinner
firmament,
from denim
to lightest cotton
to breath-
less silk &
a trickle
of sunlight
spilling through a crack
in the curtains.
While
the prim unwrinkled
bed, the generic night-
stand pinned under
a thick phone book
& the blank TV atop
a chest
of drawers
all resist
engagement: nothing
to capture
the enchanted gaze
or even the bemused
appraisal.
No stage
hand could stand
such inattention
to properties,
such utter abandon as
this room’s lone
occupant displays.

–From the manuscript entitled Capturing the Hive, p. 57.

*Rainer Maria Rilke, The Book of Images. Translated by Edward Snow (bilingual edition), North Point Press, 1991. (The original, Das Buch der Bilder, was published in 1902 and greatly expanded in 1906. Rilke was one of the 20th century’s three or four greatest poets, and Snow is without a doubt his greatest translator.)

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave’s writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the “share alike” provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).

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