Steven Cramer

Two Departures from Rilke
July 20, 2023 Cramer Steven

Two Departures from Rilke




Terrified past panic, strict lines collapsed,
their shredded flesh more wound than flesh,
they play dead in a ditch, but won’t give up


their shrouds, which have grown on them.
Then the angels come, oiling eye sockets, joints,
and stuffing everyone’s armpits, left or right,


with an item they failed to desecrate in life.
This way, something saved remains warm,


and God’s hands don’t get cold, as He sorts
the good ones from the ones who’ve spoiled.




Behind its blue corolla, the greenish leaves look dull
as clots of dried paint; and even these blue blossoms
don’t own their blue so much as borrow it from afar;


or mirror it, perhaps: the blue wish to go colorless,
or at least to leave tear marks, like those thinning
Aerograms we folded, sealed, and gave up years ago;


or a child’s jeans washed and washed so many times,
the blue fabric pales:  what’s briefer than a child’s life?


Then suddenly one petal revives, a blue hint of joy
we’d miss without those grayish remains of green.

Steven Cramers seventh collection of poetry, Departures from Rilkewill be published by Arrowsmith Press in October 2023. His previous book, Listen, was published in 2020 by MadHat Press and named a “must read” poetry collection by the Massachusetts Center for the Book. His other books are The Eye that Desires to Look Upward (Galileo Press, 1987), The World Book (Copper Beech Press, 1992), Dialogue for the Left and Right Hand (Lumen Editions/Brookline Books, 1997), Goodbye to the Orchard (Sarabande Books, 2004)—winner of the Sheila Motton Award from the New England Poetry Club and an Honor Book in Poetry from the Massachusetts Center for the Book—and Clangings (Sarabande Books, 2012).  His poems and criticism have appeared in numerous journals, including AGNI, The Atlantic Monthly, Field, The Kenyon Review, The Nation, The New England Review, The Paris Review, and Poetry.  Recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, and two fellowships from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, he founded and teaches in the Low-Residency MFA Program in Creative Writing at Lesley University.