Breslin, Paul, Tikkun
Tell us, poet, what you do- ipraise
Only, instead, the grave rasp of Kohelet
praising thedead, which are already dead
more than the living, which are yet alive.
Yea, better he than both, who has not yet been,
nor seen the evil work done under the sun.
The living freeze in fear and turn away,
except the ones who make a vulture's living
perched on others' fear. I spit at both,
but the wind's caprice doubles the spittle back
to my own face. Which, also, has turned away.
2. Chicago 2/15/03
Why are there nota few, three, five, ten, who stand to cry out in
the public squares: enough! and who will at least have given
their lives that it should be enough, while those out there are
now succumbing only so that the frightful thing shall go on and
on and there shall be no taking account of destruction. (RMR
to Ellen Delp, 10/10/1915)
We stood together in the public square
and cried Enough! Of course, nobody shot us
quite unnecessary. The frightful thing
would arrive on schedule. No one would keep tabs
on foreign bodies mutilated, dead,
or exiled. Nonetheless, in bitter cold,
we mustered for the march along Devon Street,
jamming a Seven-Eleven parking lot.
Across the street, a sparsely-furnished restaurant
full of bearded men. Assured that we,
outsiders, women among us, might come in,
we huddled over tea and asked the owner
what people had to say about this war.
"It's terrible, of course, but he will do it,
he will do it, no matter what we say."
At other tables, talk in another language,
opaque to us. Since everyone seemed careful
not to look at us, we did our best
to look at them without being seen to look.
The march assembled finally, with a banner
the bullhorn said was Urdu (English underneath).
Too many speeches, as we curled our toes
to ward off frostbite. Somebody yelled "Let's move!"
Over the halal groceries, restaurants
named "Ghandi'Or "Punjab," and storefronts bright
with vernal saris in the dead of winter,
faces appeared at windows, looking down at us,
a mob of strangers chanting "No Blood for Oil."
Nobody called to us, or smiled or waved.
What they looked was worried, as if some backlash
aimed at us might land, instead, on them.
At intersections, counter-demonstrators
reviled us as appeasers sold to Terrorists.
We didn't answer. Not that they wouldn't listen,
though that was likely, but that we ourselves
were done with listening. Brute repetition
husked our words of meaning, leaving only
three empty syllables: blood, oil, war.
The bullhorn asked us what we wanted. "Coffee,"
Somebody answered, spirit chilled with cold.
Then, allât once, in the midst of his thoughts, it seemed that from
the ragingstorm a voice had called to him. . . . (Princess Marie von
Thurn undTaxis-Hohenlohe, Memories of Rainer Maria Rilke)
Leaning into the dark, I listen: nothing.
Thunder lagging the lightning, monochrome rain,
facefuls of drenching wind. Bored and unblessed,
I slam the window shut and read the Times.
An airstrike, it reports, blew up a wedding,
and last week, some "insurgents" hit a mosque
or maybe it said a market? The papers grow
interchangeable, fusing all days to one.
"Unnamed officials" tell us we can't stop
doing the frightful thing, lest worse things follow.
If storms can speak, what this one says is "war."
Not Who, iflcried, would hear me then among'
The orders of angels, but whether- if there were angels
I could hear them, calling …
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: Rilke's America. Contributors: Breslin, Paul - Author. Magazine title: Tikkun. Volume: 25. Issue: 6 Publication date: November/December 2010. Page number: 30+. © 2002 Tikkun. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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