After Rilke

ice feathers

Every angel is falling—not like a skydiver
rushing toward reunion
but like a fish leaping above the calm surface of a lake,
entering a new universe of knives & eyelids.
Imagine being born at the height of your powers.

force field

One rainfall & your chalk outline
disappears from the curb.
One hurricane and half the population
of your migratory species
vanishes over the Atlantic.

ice island

I don’t believe in angels, but I believe in their falling,
their helplessness against evil.
Nobody is watching over us except
for the blessed satellites, most of which
are in stable orbits.

green birch polypores

We point our dishes at the farthest stars,
searching for any crumb of meaning.
Who but the most downwardly mobile,
undocumented aliens
would turn unjaded ears toward the earth?


The first line is of course a riff on the opening of Rilke’s second Duino Elegy, “Every angel is terrifying.”

16 Replies to “After Rilke”

    1. Thanks! It was interesting the way the photos not only prompted specific images, but also allowed bigger shifts between thoughts and stanzas than I otherwise could’ve gotten away with, I think.

  1. Great pictures, Dave. Specially liked your last three lines about downwardly mobile aliens curious about us earthlings. Bravo.

    1. Thanks, Albert. I don’t know that those were specifically space aliens, but they could be! Certainly for many people, space aliens have taken the place that angels or demons once occupied in the collective imagination.

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