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Waiting for Rilke

Raza Ijaz


The following poem was first published in The Aleph Review, Vol. 5 (2021).


I was laying in bed at night, covers up to my chin,

when suddenly, without warning,

Ezra Pound burst into my room shouting,

“These apparitions! These apparitions! They won’t leave me be! Leave me! Leave me!”

I jolted out of bed and gripped his arms tightly,

“What apparitions?” I demanded. “What apparitions? What’s wrong? Tell me!”

“The train, the smoke, shards of black, the faces, his nose, a petal of pink wind, I-I…”

He ran out of breath, wheezing,

and fell to his knees.

“Please calm yourself, Mr Pound, please! Come, I’m sure the food must be ready and

the others should be arriving soon as well. Come now.”


I held his hand as we descended the stairs and

thankfully his shaking stopped when

he saw the long dinner table decked with food and cutlery.


The wooden kitchen door swung open and out came

Robert Frost with a huge tray towering with Malai Boti and

right behind followed W. B. Yeats with a bowl spilling its rim with Nihari.

When they had set their dishes on the table, we greeted one another,

Pound to Frost, Pound to Yeats,

Yeats bear-hugged me, Frost shook my hand sturdily and then

we heard a Howl from the kitchen, followed immediately

by the shriek of a blazing flame.

Frost looked back and shouted,

“Ginsberg! You alright in there?”


But the Howling continued, and I ran into the kitchen

to see Allen juggling three non-stick frying pans,

the searing contents of which had spilled all over him.

Chicken Karahi was slathered across his face and white shirt and

Gobi Kima lay in mounds on his shoes and had soiled his crotch with heavy oil.

His lips were dribbling with Taka-Tak.

The man was Howling with laughter, the stove top blazing every now and then

into an orange bonfire that reached the ceiling.


“Did you do heroin again?” I screamed at this balding clown of a cook!

Hands still juggling, he turned to me and I saw the widest smile I’d ever seen

on the face of a human being,

so wide I thought his skin would tear open at the endpoints of his lips.

I grabbed his right hand, the frying pans clattered to the floor and I dragged him out of there and

had Mr Frost and Yeats seat him at the table. Upon coming out of the kitchen with Ginsberg,

I realized that more guests had arrived and taken seats at the dinner table.

Whitman, Henley, Poe, Stein, Eliot, Jalal ad-Din Rumi, they were all there. Just two seats left.

One for me.

And one for him.


I asked everyone to be a little patient

and I went looking for him.

I went to the living room, the drawing room, the study, the guestroom, the lounge,

I paced the lobby thrice, hell I even checked the roof

But he wasn’t there, so I went back to the table.


“Where is he already?” inquired Whitman furiously

and everyone else chimed into the distress to

fuel the common hunger they all shared,

and their impatience only grew louder.


Then, we heard a step on the main staircase.

The house and us, we fell silent.

Then another step, and then another.

Hastily, knowing now that he was here, Yeats reached for the pot of Nihari, but

His hand was swatted away by Rumi,

“Patience, my dear, ’tis the second coming.”


Quietly, I went to the stairs to receive him.

I saw him,

his torso frail, his black coat

stitched with a fine solitude,

his lanky legs.

The face was a smile, and

the eyes told the tale

of a melody’s funeral.


Rilke embraced us all.


Rainer Maria Rilke, 1900 (Wikimedia Commons)

 


Raza Ijaz is from Lahore and currently a junior at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), pursuing a degree in English. He is trying to improve his fluency in German these days to be able to read Rilke’s poetry in the original. (Poet bio accurate as of the date of print publication, i.e. 2021).

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