so intimately, out there
at the pen’s point or brush’s tip, do world
and spirit wed.
– Howard Nemerov
When I was young, our family friends had access to a deserted strip of beach. Over the summer, my mom would pile us five kids and two of our friends’ kids into our station wagon and let the waves and sun exhaust our energies. There was a sea wall with a makeshift ladder that we climbed to get from the car to the sand below. I remember going up and down that ladder as a six year old. It was positioned straight up against a wall of creosoted beams. That meant, for a small child, getting up the ladder was a combination of pulling up on one rung while pushing off on another, the simple physics of overcoming gravity by force. The physics was simple, but the effort was not.
Rilke in Moscow by Leonid Pasternak
Sometimes, when I’m burnt out, I look to Rilke. Not his Letters to a Young Poet, or his masterpiece, Duino Elegies, but to his very first collection, Wegwarten. It was self-published, and he handed it out on street corners. One version of the story even claims he did this while “dressed in the black habit of an abbé with long curly hair.”
On a Friday one long-ago September, after I’d toured several galleries at the Menil Collection with some fellow writers, I was anxious to get outside and enjoy a rare, cool afternoon. However, the guide had one more exhibit to show us, a room-sized sculpture, Mineko Grimmer’s Remembering Plato.
The documents are in folders, carefully taken out and laid upon my desk. Others have been folded and refolded; the creases have become a part of the paper. They are birth and marriage and death certificates, transcripts and diplomas. I scan the documents and send the file to one of my translators. After a few hours or days, the translated words in English are sent back. I look through, edit and check. The documents are filled with words like certify, signature, official, issued, expire; it’s pretty straightforward stuff.