songs for Georg

            songs for Georg
Dedicated to & in celebration of the work of the Austrian poet, Georg Trakl 1887 – 1914

I

palette

always
the war
bread
and evening

the shouting
hung on wire
cut stone and
logs of darkness

iron worn to a
blade in the mouth
bread that was
to be flesh
stars on the cusp
of vesper told
simple in stable
straw

always
war
bread
and evening

II.

throne

nothing commonplace
in the late sigh of
afternoon
the sun enamelling
everything royally
in its place where
none may sit
the sky
blue enough
to raise up oceans
of hill and lamb
the shut latch of
woods on the ridge
the singer with
flute of glass
and morphine note
moving the words
of his songs across
a paper on his
knee writing on
into the part where
the moon tips out on
the crest of earth
massive over hollows
the words now
filled in at
last

III.

world

world
the word ringing
large as it is,
a tree in sunlight
a cloud in sky
lifting and
riding,
most
you caught the arc
of shadows
the curtains that
kept the table
in dusk
the still life
the crust round
on the tablecloth*
as if
nothing had been
until you said
it. 

*allusion to the imagery in the closing stanza of Trakl’s ‘Winter Evening’ (Ein Winterabend)
 
IV.

edge

on the edge
of things
the rim of the cup
cloud on the ridge
you found rest
there
the wanderer
endlessly returning
to the brightness
they laid before
you to be touched
in the frame of
word
you took an arrow
out over your
shoulder
drew until the
sky bent back
the arrow in flight
was its arrival
wherever you
spoke the flags
struck on the wind
and the wind
broke
you hunted in
the gentlest of
forests

 

V.

theatre

there was
theatre and
theatre
theatre in
the falling the
rising of the
day you walked
towards your legs
scything shadow
on the wet
fields
theatre in the
braid and uniforms
the silk waltzes
the salute bringing
the foot to rest
on the young
man’s face down
in mud eyes
milky with
yesterday’s
dying
the body
shrunk in
khaki
the barbs
of that wire
ravelling up
the dead.

the broken
peace of
evening
theatre
of the
crow
.

VI.

vision

i looked
for you on
the avenue
where the young
women walked
fine and just
abreast the
scope of their
wired skirts
you weren’t there
though they had
known you
eyes of absinthe
eyes of quartz
they said
a gentleman
too bold for his
age
i looked for you
in the salons
where drinking
and turning the
order of things
on its head was
the call to arms
where art was
pounded to bits
and made into
something stronger
more of chance and
just as blind so
kept pure
eyes of whiskey
eyes of emerald
they said
a gentleman
blundering ahead
of the age
i looked for you
along the wind-break
elders poplars
drumming along
the wind flashing
like the river over
shallow stones
ruts of the
far wagon
lurching its
load onward
to the market
of night
in the day
the driver said
you weren’t there
though the swallows
knew you
eyes of rushes
eyes of painted glass
a gentleman of
the field and
sacred hunt

i found the breath
of you only on
the low afternoon
inhaling the mist
of view blued out
toward the hills
the mountains
like ships of
evening docked
to the sun
that itself
was sinking
down the
the plumbline
of its gold
your eye
that knew
every single
major and
minor of colour*
to its very edge
every village
to its black
under star
oh you with
eyes that
took full
measure
stone worker
in word
stone worker
in frost
visions lost
to the moon

*see note on Trakl’s use of colour below

VII.

apothecary

served your
apprenticeship
at the apothecary
of the White Angel*
mixing grinding in the
mortar of your skull
the quartz light on the
wall behind the bottles
the clumsy shadows
of this side of
the street cast
on the other
the snarl of a
cat out the back
the bell at the
front door
ringing curt
that poor thing
again paleness
and gauze
tubercular even
a kiss on the
back of her hand
would draw all
the blood out
of it a man
out there
waiting for her
in a carriage smelling
of stale rose
think of elements
as colours* think of
colours as the elements,
yes, put a dab of them
between the dry
words, stain
the line stain
the whole stanza
or should one
place the colours
first in mind
the fade
and rift
between them
believe whatever
word is pulled
to hearing
in that
space?
in
haste
you wrote a
line that
crushed blue
and white
like copper
sulphate
across the
back of a
prescription.

*Georg Trakl served his apprentice as a pharmacist in the Apothecary of the White Angel (‘Apotheke zum Weissen Engel’) in Salzburg, his birthplace, from 1905 – 1908

  • refers to, according to certain critics,  his singular use of colour in his work as a ‘signifier’; others dispute any broad consistency in its use

IIX.

sister*

when were young
you were the
only place
i could talk
we would
walk in
common things
that shadow
of a fallen
trunk
skirting round
the sound
of a stream
a garden that
never ended
of thoughts

you came
again around
me in that
city* stuffed
with its own
emptiness
you filled it
avenue on
avenue
ran drunken
through it
your stockings
fallen to the
ankle the
skin of

our
weak
lineage
bare

*Georg’s younger sister, Grete, the youngest of her siblings. The relationship between Georg and Grete, as alluded to in Georg’s work, is interpreted as incestuous by some biographers. She committed suicide 3 years after her brother died of a cocaine overdose, which was apparently also suicide. 

*Vienna

IX.

fall

fall
the
blood
the nail
into wood
the silver
onto
water

fall
low gold
to leaf
her sleeve
to touch
the whispers
of us
on the path

fall
the hand
to hand
the heart
to breast
the hope
to cruel
desire

X. 

            forgotten

were we forgotten
in that stillness the
moon weighed upon
through the town
those streets by
day we played
brilliantly through?

were we forgotten
left to the plots
of garden trailing
autumn through
the lanes like
brown paper
tied to string
the cat would
chase and
tear? the town
swept up in
season

were we forgotten
in what we saw?
what we felt?
the depth of it
floating off on
first light

were we forgot?

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5 thoughts on “songs for Georg”

  1. Thanks everyone, and thanks Dean. Yes, the name rung in my head for years. Was given some of his poems to read in German literature class, and they kept calling back to read them when I’d grown up a little. I stumbled across something on Youtube, a film trailer for’ Es ist die Seele ein Fremdes auf Erden ‘The Soul is Stranger on Earth’ (stranger here meaning ‘a stranger’ not ‘more weird!’, maybe ‘strange thing’ would be more accurate). I think you may be able to find the whole film about him and his sister (don’t know fi it’s subtitled).

  2. As when I last read this on the old site I went and racked down his poems, and bio, glad to be reminded of his life and sorrow and escape…a personable feeling through this, quite distinct; as an aside, I read this first early this morning, before work, and his name buzzed my ears all day, only his name…strange.

  3. Grazie tante, Marco, that you remember them per se, is encouragement enough. Of course, I wouldn’t be labouring to post pieces all previously posted if our lord and overseeing site minister could get us somewhere to upload the fabled ‘archives’ that exist of the previous site! Having said that, I can only stress they have been ‘heard’ of but not yet ‘seen’.

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