Sunday, March 15, 2020

Christchurch Mosque Attack - First Anniversary



Christchurch, 15th March 2019

Du mußt dein Leben ändern
– Rainer Maria Rilke

Do we have to feel that pixilated head
burning behind our eyes?the media
keep broadcasting a manacled muscular
torso signalling triumph over the dead

his fingers cocked to a smirkthe score
perhapsJacinda Ardern’s face
caught in a rictus of grief
can’t quite displace
the bluntness of his semaphore

on this darkest of days it feels like our worst fears
were always justifiedour impotence
out in the open for all to seeour pain

trumped by the old familiar reptile brain
but scrolling down those flowers those faces those tears
I can’t see them as nothingaren’t they us?


[19/3/19]



Louvre: Louvre: Male Torso (4th-5th century BCE)


I thought that now might be the time to post this poem I wrote shortly after the terrible mosque shootings in Christchurch, exactly one year ago today. In form it's a very loose adaptation of Rainer Maria Rilke's great sonnet about Apollo. Something about that picture of the suspect in the dock reminded me of the statue Rilke was referring to - but in a very different way ...

Archaïscher Torso Apollos
Archaic Torso of Apollo

Wir kannten nicht sein unerhörtes Haupt,
We never knew his unheard-of head
darin die Augenäpfel reiften. Aber
where the eyeballs ripened. But
sein Torso glüht noch wie ein Kandelaber,
his torso still glows like a candelabra
in dem sein Schauen, nur zurückgeschraubt,
in which his gaze, only half-illuminated

sich hält und glänzt. Sonst könnte nicht der Bug
holds and dazzles. Otherwise the bow
der Brust dich blenden, und im leisen Drehen
of the breast wouldn’t join in, and the light twist
der Lenden könnte nicht ein Lächeln gehen
of the loins couldn’t lend a smile
zu jener Mitte, die die Zeugung trug.
to that centre, which holds fertility.

Sonst stünde dieser Stein enstellt und kurz
Otherwise this stone would be shut and cut short
unter der Shultern durchsichtigem Sturz
under the shoulders’ transparent fall
und flimmerte nicht so wie Raubtierfelle;
and would not flicker like a predator’s skin;

und brächte nicht aus allen seinen Rändern
and would not burst out on all sides
aus wie ein Stern: denn da ist keine Stelle,
like a star: since there’s no part
die dich nicht sieht. Du mußt dein Leben ändern.
which doesn’t see you. You must change your life.

For more translations of Rilke's poem, you can check out the multiple versions collected here.



Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926)