Tony Hoagland

The Collaboration

That was the summer I used the Duino Elegies
in all of my seductions,
taking Rilke from my briefcase

the way another man might break out
candlelight and wine.
I think Rilke would have understood,

would have thought the means
justified the ends, when I began to read
in a voice so low it forced my audience

to lean a little closer,
as if Rilke were a limestone bench
stationed on a hillside

where lovers gathered to enjoy the vista
of each other listening.
What a chaperone,

and what a view—is it Susan
I am thinking of?—
how, in the middle of the great Ninth Elegy,

in the stanza where the poet promises
to memorize the earth,
her tanned and naked knee

seemed the perfect landing platform
for any angels in the vicinity.
I think Rilke would have seen

the outline of an angel
in the space between our bodies
just before we kissed,

then seen it vanish
as we clashed together
and commenced our collaboration

on another chapter
of the famous, familiar and amusing
saga of human relations—choosing

heat instead of grace,
possession over possibility—trading
the kingdom of heaven

one more time
for two arms full
of beautiful, confusing earth.


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