On Rilke

I have very vivid dreams, but one of the dreams that has lingered the longest, besides the nightmares, was a confrontation with Rilke’s angels. I was in a dark bar with long wooden tables, sitting across from a man I was seeing, and two old women sat at the far end of the table.  The women were wrapped in scarves like old Russian peasants, and they quietly talked in the way people talk when they’re really listening to other peoples’ conversations. The man and I were talking about God, and he said that he believed in him. I shook my head sadly, I knew that we were at an end-stop—there was nothing he could say to convince me God exists and there was nothing I could say to convince him he was wrong.  God felt wrong—it wasn’t what we meant, but it was what we were talking about.  What we really meant—a difference of opinions without anywhere to go, without a way to bridge the gap. I was so sad—looking at this man, knowing it was over, although we hadn’t said it yet. The women turned to us, and at that point I knew they were angels. They were women but men at the same time, old and young, with eyes that refused to blink.  They were dark and light and terrifying—they saw into my bones and shook their heads. They knew everything about me, every single thing that I hid, every single thing that I was afraid of. None of it mattered. I was transparent and small and nothing.  You know they said. And I knew. Your father would be proud, by the way they said. But this isn’t why. Keep going. And I woke up sobbing.

At the time, I reached for the man beside me, and he held me, unsure where the tears had come from. I said, bad dream, I saw angels, and left it at that. How could I articulate the loss that filled every part of my body? Later, much later than it should have been, we reached the moment of un-bridgeable gap. And despite knowing it, the truth was a difficult thing to slam into. The truth hurt, in a bone-shattering-heart-breaking way.

I think it’s time to re-read Rilke and rediscover his beautiful destroying angels.  Maybe it’s time to re-read ether books too—dive back into the void.  Last time I had my colleagues at my side, I was in school and the safe hands of my professors.  We toed the edge, we peered into darkness, and we brought ourselves laughing back with pitchers of cheap beer and late night swimming, with spirit walks up the scrubby mountains and Cold Stone dates. Making real art scares me—the membrane between myself and the world thins and I’m afraid I’ll take a step too far and end up lost in esoteric sculptures and essays. It’s even scarier to do it in relative solitude, but I think maybe that’s the next step for me.  Restarting this blog is part of it—the dry run and literary exercise. I’m practicing my scales, remembering how to link word to word.

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2 thoughts on “On Rilke

  1. Rilke has always been extremely tough for me personally. When I think I get my head even partially wrapped around him, he rips away and I am left wondering what the heck? Your “Thought on Rilke” pushes me to go back and make another effort.

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