night letter to rilke
BY CHRIS SANTIAGO
Roses, you said, are ruthless in their desire
under so many lids
to be no one’s sleep. So you left Ruth
& went walking
barefoot through empty castles
to feel around you the silence
grow wider. But there’s always an upbeat.
Always the strung readiness
of knowing that someone might cry out
& who will hear it
if not us. When I saw his new torso
suffused with purple light
as though not our son after all
but an organ—a heart
I’d sung into each night
before they cut him out looking big & angry—
I knew I must change my life. How badly
you wanted to feel your own death
to account cell by cell
for your own body’s passing.
Is that so different from enduring
the most menial of tasks, the grind
& counterweight, the tedium & vigilance
of seeming to be a god?
Isn’t the preparation to be abandoned
also the prick of the bodied life
first the left arm swelling,
then the right, finally the body
reduced to a bell?
Chris Santiago’s debut poetry collection, TULA, was selected by A. Van Jordan for the 2016 Lindquist & Vennum Prize, and will be published by Milkweed Editions in December 2016. Poems, short stories, and criticism have appeared in FIELD, Copper Nickel, the Asian American Literary Review, and Pleiades, and have received nominations for Best New Poets and the Pushcart Prize. He lives near Minneapolis, where he is an assistant professor of English at the University of St. Thomas.