Reading Rilke and Other Poems


Reading Rilke at Lake Mendota, Wisconsin

I have relinquished my shame
now that I have mastered what wasn’t lent
to my name: three languages, one of them
dead. It is hard to misbelove
all that isn’t as absurd as my forked
childhood—first of the menses, padar’s
stethoscope, to have hours upon hours
to marvel at words like driftwood, trope,
misbelove.
To miss my life in Kabul is to tongue
pears laced with needles. I had no life
in Kabul. How then can I trust my mind’s long corridor,
its longing for before? I have a faint depression
polluting my heart,
sings the lake. That there is music
in everything if you tune in to it
devastates me. Even trauma sounds like Traum,
the German word for dream. Even in the dirty
atrium, Lou was waiting, tenderly, for Rilke—René,
he signed his letters, the apostrophe arced with love. Oh—
in love, I was always and providential, but what
I want is not of love. Its meatless mojo and limen
bore me. I do not want to open, neither for food
nor men. For loneliness, I keep a stone
to kiss. At night the entirety of me arches
not toward the black square
of absence, but toward you.

Inventory of Lost Conditionals

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