Magazine article World Literature Today

Two Poems

Magazine article World Literature Today

Two Poems

Article excerpt

Masters Whose Doorsteps

Masters whose doorsteps I approached in rapture

and awe before ringing the doorbell

that gave a ululant screech like a siren.

A seedy woman let me in the ballroom flooded

in chandelier light: the landlady, just reading

the gas meter, writing in her chequered notebook,

she kindly showed me the way strewn with roses.

I knocked; something stirred inside. At the fatigued

Come in!, I pushed the copper doorknob

but a protruding nail ripped the skin on my hand.

I was given coffee, hot and undrinkably strong.

In a soiled mug by the cup there was sugar

turned to stone; they insisted I take some, but no spoon

was in sight. Stranded, I dug my fingers

into the fossil: they watched me, mortified.

That instant I saw the aluminum teaspoon half-hidden

under the lace coverlet. I made to apologize:

"I thought it was part of the pattern."

I stirred the dark potion for a while, but at the first

sip I dropped the red-hot alt-wien cup

back into its cracked alt-wien saucer.

They slurped the flame-hot beverage with closed eyes.

The muse was chain-smoking, her teeth spotted

and yellowish like the fusiliers' torch-lit

cloak on Rembrandt's Night Watch.

The host's dark eyes scanned me from head to toe,

halting on my bleeding hand. His lips curled into a smile.

I stood (sat) his gaze like one struck by lightning.

I noticed he was wearing white summer gloves

and knew at once it was for poetry's stigmata.

On Vision

Wally Neuzil to Schiele

Vision is God's gift but to me it seems it was not

given. All I see is you. This must be the devil's

last offering to me. Yesterday I managed

to get into your house as far as the marble

staircase but they dragged me out: Fräulein,

where are you going? Do leave at once! A man

stuck out his head at the racket, it's you I hoped

you'd rush to gather me up but it was someone

else. Love is compulsive instinct, you used to say.

I would have recognized your brown eyes, their green. …

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