Rilke's Argument with Don Giovanni
I never thought
I'd be anything like you . . .
I was drawn up, as in a whirlwind, by their gaze
and wished to live there forever -- a soul around my soul --
astonished, perhaps, to be wanted there at all --
who was Mitzi in the army; the boy fainting by the wall at school.
But then, when the wincing not right
began in my head; when I wanted
so much to be loved in the moment I found my separateness
still there, still real -- I needed
the one who could be told anything, even the thing
that drove her away.
People will say I disliked the body; it's the easiest
explanation, for someone who talked with angels.
But my dear ones will know something different,
how astonished and careful
I could be, like a boy
given something unbelievable,
the pale gold flare at the bottom of the stream.
The men of our time burst into them
like the brusk hussar
at the dressing-room door in Strauss's Ariadne.
I loved their talents
as if they were my own talent,
a surer hand to reach the brush, the page --
transfixed with knowing
how a child shapes itself, willless, in the dark.
And they must have felt something heavy in me, too rich,
too complete in itself. They dreamed
stronger dreams in my presence.
But the weight was what sank, what even I couldn't hold.
I always hoped the right one
would arrive like wind,
that freshly, instantly touching everywhere.
I never remembered
the nature of wind is to pass by.
I'm glad their oval portraits will be in my biography --
soul on soul on soul,
clouds and clouds of them, lace and hairpins --
and I whose soul could vanish
at a spastic's tic on a curb's edge in Paris.
I pray they weren't what yours were --
flung in the face of the echoing man of stone.
-- Alan Williamson