Saturday, 9 April 2016

from Blackwater Quartet, selection 88



after Rainer Maria Rilke
from Sonnets to Orpheus
(Die Sonette an Orpheus, 1922)

I.i

From silence, from hidden forms of silence,
from signs transcendent root and branch, begin
with Orpheus, his rising notes and sense
of generation waking worlds within.

The wilderness responds. The secret heart
of every species opens, mended, rubric
time exalted in the spell of music,
distinct, a hostage to this sudden art.

A place is found, a dwelling, a refuge
constructed from the stillness. In each beam
and vaulted arch, each plane, song’s symmetry

insinuates a proved geometry,
a cunning, squared against the roaring dream.
Such calculations drive the centrifuge.

I.iii

A God makes his own luck. Compared to man’s
inconsequential stars, Apollo’s shine
more luminous with chance, and so define
the rituals in praise of circumstance.

Your break-glass notes assemble time, and woo
the constellations of a rarer sky
to decorate our lost horizons. Why
ape the gods? Your lyre marks heaven’s blue

more deeply. Forget technique. Forget this
subsequent perfection. Its atlas sweep
encompasses a sameness, hit or miss.

In the soft breeze, a God stirs sleepily.
The promises you made you meant to keep,
this meditation— first a breath, then free.

I.vii

Your voice is perfect praise, the purest ore
that jewels the sediments, a freighted zone
of tributary brightness at the core
of planet, ruby vine and semitone.

You celebrate the poorest soil, the scree
seams marbled with still drier habitats.
Lost towns, those lives now archaeology
or less— your lightning spines the ziggurats.

In your song, windows open to the wide
mosaics, plazas peopled where the bride
leads out her silk and saffron retinue.

In your song, catchlight intimations pool.
The stoke of emeralds resumes, death’s rule
dissolved, a gemstone crush, a spoken blue.

I.ix

The dead are listening. The lyre’s note halts
their world, its orbit
cold around a colder sun, the chill vaults
prised, urgent with it.

We have no mouths, and yet the dead speak through
us— poppy-bled dreams,
percussive iridescence— all we knew
skimming the extremes.

The lake, silvered with a silver sky,
rises as it falls.
Water mirrors pain.

The earth we remembered, its weather sly
with beginnings, crawls
out to meet the rain.

I.xix

Cloudscapes run to storms.
Your voice weaves moments
from emergent forms’
flux and consequence.

You made this thunder,
quarter-moon dance, knit
of horses tides spur
across the sand-spit.

The sky invented
here includes a key,
a door, a shared space

the winds indented.
Here, identity
is nothing. Clouds race.

I.xxiii

This place is binding blue
and breathless— atmosphere
of angels, the strewn, tear-
drop globe beneath you.

Heaven sails with crow
caw, filigree clouds’ edge
and intonations. No
wing beat breaks this pledge.

Where you rise, dawn rises.
Your life burns away
in the high, clear light


past compromises
first and last, the day
holding the sought height.

II.xii

You too shall be changed. Within the fulcrum
tilt of transformation an energy
resides, a recognition— the tattoo’s drum
hide sounded for each spirit, unearthly.

No voice or sign predates this pilgrimage.
Its pace sets earth and stars in motion, yet
a cricket’s song is larger, a mirage,
a rising vapour the winds interpret.

The tide runs with you. The ocean bears you
to extinction. Your nicknamed hour returns
to hours beyond your birth and death again.

A bloodline scatters in a breath, a true
inheritance each withered will discerns—
our faces raised, astonished by the rain.

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