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30 Apr 2004

Yesterday, Separate, in the Evening.

Written by sally @ 7:47 am — Section: sally

At last! The last wretched day of National Poetry Month!

This is the last poem you are going to be made to read. And it is good. It’s the only one I can think of in which the speaker pines for a beloved he hasn’t met yet. Although he announces that he has given up waiting for her, and how it is ridiculous because he doesn’t know anything about her (“I don’t even know what songs / would please you”), the last few lines indicate that despite the fact that she hasn’t shown up yet, he still really does have hope. . .

Be gone, National Poetry Month!

You who never arrived
Rainer Maria Rilke

You who never arrived
in my arms, Beloved, who were lost
from the start,
I don’t even know what songs
would please you. I have given up trying
to recognize you in the surging wave of the next
moment. All the immense
images in me– the far-off, deeply-felt landscape,
cities, towers, and bridges, and unsuspected
turns in the path,
and those powerful lands that were once
pulsing with the life of the gods–
all rise within me to mean
you, who forever elude me.

You, Beloved, who are all
the gardens I have ever gazed at,
longing. An open window
in a country house–, and you almost
stepped out, pensive, to meet me.
Streets that I chanced upon,–
you had just walked down them and vanished.
And sometimes, in a shop, the mirrors
were still dizzy with your presence and, startled,
gave back my too-sudden image. Who knows?
perhaps the same bird echoed through both of us
yesterday, separate, in the evening. . .

Translated by Stephen Mitchell

16 Responses to “Yesterday, Separate, in the Evening.”

  1. gorjus said:

    That last line just leaves me cold. I mean, “Translated by Stephen Mitchell,” all italicized like that? I mean, what is RMR trying to say to us?

  2. Sally said:

    Sha ha ya ma.

  3. Kicker of Elves said:

    A fitting end to NPM. Beautiful and, I’d say, spot on.

  4. agent mcclacho said:

    Sally, have you heard of/do you like Gaspara Stampa?

  5. jp! said:

    yesterday i proclaimed Poetry the lowest form of art.

  6. Kicker of Elves said:

    “One beats and beats for that which one believes.
    That’s what one wants to get near. Could it after all
    Be merely oneself, as superior as the ear
    To a crow’s voice? Did the nightingale torture the ear,
    Pack the heart and scratch the mind? And does the ear
    Solace itself in peevish birds? Is it peace,
    Is it a philosopher’s honeymoon, one finds
    On the dump? Is it to sit among mattresses of the dead,
    Bottles, pots, shoes and grass and murmur ‘aptest eve’:
    Is it to hear the blatter of grackles and say
    ‘Invisible priest’; is it to eject, to pull
    The day to pieces and cry ‘stanza my stone’?
    Where was it one first heard of the truth? The the.”


  7. Sally said:

    I love the word “peevish.” In fact, I am feeling peevish today, so I am glad to come across it.

    jp!, the highest form of art for you is the comic book. Of course you hate poems!

  8. gorjus said:

    Don’t let him trick you. He LOVES this one comic that is a near-verbatim adaption of the “Ring of the Nieblung.”

  9. jp! said:

    yeah, Ring of the Nieblung IS pretty good. i guess i like epic poems like the works of Homer…but yeah, on smaller scale, poetry is the lowest of the “traditional” forms of art.

    I’m not counting some creepy acts you guys do in the privacy of your own homes. heh.

  10. gclark said:

    man, i hated poetry month as much as the next guy, but “poetry is the lowest of the ‘traditional’ forms of art” is just utter BS.

    playing the spoons on street corners is lower than poetry, at the very least.

  11. jp! said:

    i meant form of art not type of performance. I’d still hold poetry lower than its contemporaries. i guess i’m splitting hairs here.

  12. Sally said:

    jp!, what you need is a good lesson in the science of poetry. I think you would have more respect if you saw how, for a lot of poets, there is a lot of math and planning going on.

    And gclark, what about all those emails about how much you were enjoying poetry month? You are a reverse snob.

    Leave poetry month alone. It’s over now. Everyone can stop crying.

  13. bulb said:

    When is national reference book month?

  14. gclark said:

    National Poetry Month was so unbearable we’re going to make May the “Complain Incessantly About ‘National Poetry Month’ Month.”

    I really did sort of enjoy it, though. Next time I feel like reading a new poet, I’m going to mine the archives for some of sally’s recommendations.

  15. Big Gray said:

    I was just giving you guys a little shit earlier. I go back on forth on poetry. Sometimes it sounds so canned and false to me, and other times really great. Strangely, I tend to like poets who were also playwrights or novelists, that kind of thing.

    I really love this one John Updike poem, “Ex-Basketball Player,” kind of like a prequel to Rabbit, Run. Just thought I’d share.

    What month is May? National Rock and Roll month?!

  16. Kicker of Elves said:

    Hey, that Updike poem is good. I haven’t read that in a long time.