Mark Olival-Bartley

2011/09/14 § 5 Comments

A sonnet on the theme of America and a translation of Rilke on the theme of “Somewhere Never Traveled, Gladly Beyond.”

I heard a soldier on NPR speak
of an Afghan widow who, in a field
of blooming poppies, stooped low in the mud;
she’d been at her work for hours: “Crazy,”
he thought, watching the white dress go blood red
with flower stains of decollated bulbs
with a curious amount of leisure.

As in a gallery patron’s treasure
hunt, where each find is found, say, like the daubs
of Hofmann’s blasted and fragmented bed
of sanguinary chunks, lit by hazy
afternoon, she’d toss with a horrible thud—
he realized only later—the gross yield
of a land mine, which made the basket leak.

The Death of the Poet

There he lay. His pale face, propped up, then fell
to balk at the steepness of the pillow
as the world and what of it one can know
were being ripped from his senses ever so,
relapsing through a year of listless hell.

Those who saw him then did not know the grace
with which he was at one with all of this—
these thises: This depth, this meadow, and this
water that was being put upon his face.

On his face, there came indeed a vast tide
wanting him and looking for him with care;
his mask is, with the fear no longer there,
as tender and open as the inside
of a fruit spoiling in the outside air.

Sonnet by Rainer Maria Rilke

Translated by Mark Olival-Bartley

Der Tod des Dichters

Er lag. Sein aufgestelltes Antlitz war
bleich und verweigernd in den steilen Kissen,
seitdem die Welt und dieses von-ihr-Wissen,
von seinen Sinnen abgerissen,
zurückfiel an das teilnahmslose Jahr.

Die, so ihn leben sahen, wußten nicht,
wie sehr er Eines war mit allem diesen;
denn Dieses: diese Tiefen, diese Wiesen
und diese Wasser waren sein Gesicht.

O sein Gesicht war diese ganze Weite,
die jetzt noch zu ihm will und um ihn wirbt;
und seine Maske, die nun bang verstirbt,
ist zart und offen wie die Innenseite
von einer Frucht, die an der Luft verdirbt.

Rainer Maria Rilke

Author Biography
Mark Olival-Bartley studied applied linguistics at Hawaii Pacific University and poetry at CUNY’s City College.
He lives in Munich, where he translates German and Danish literature.

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