March 2024

Back to Issue 15


By Andrew Leggett

after Rainer Maria Rilke’s Duino Elegy No. 1


You come to me like silver scale on the stems of a rose bush,

readily brushed away, but soon to return, even after a spray

with moral insecticide. In the natural world, you are burrowed

deep in the cork, eroding the stopper of something not to be

popped. Could I have dreamed of you, even in the months

that preceded my birth, and might you have been dreamed

along songlines against which the fathers of my fathers built

their gospel books as dams against the seep of fragrant earth

that runs between the graves of neighbours, the guarantee

that once we pass beyond the chaos of the loam, we shall

never rise? Somehow, you’ve been with me from the start,

the primal dot that gives rise to the question mark, drawing

me towards the boundaries I ride, between the darkness

and the dark, between this day and procession of days,

as if I was one to hold the wall with tried commandments

of the tide, one of sufficient voice to drive the ocean back.


This staunch belief that I am flawed, that you are the stain

of the original, and not the vital sign of that which beats

against the walls that hold my heart within the chest vault,

has been eroded by love’s fierce vituperation that came

before the flood, as we, like children, short of words for

what is felt and not yet known, resort to calling names.

You are the angel of disruption. Stagnation is the price

of failure to respond to your call. Repudiation fails, but

stepping forward into the space of loss of differentiation

is terrible and all else that comes after shrieks its chorus

of derision and exaggeration at such monstrous violation

of the chiselled laws that demand closure of the gap

rent in the temple curtain. I cry as one seated on a traffic

island in the rain with a mobile phone, making his last

leaden call of renunciation. Pain stalks my avenue of figs

like an ecopoet mourning the passing of a colony of bats.