Strangeness

Reading Goethe during an afternoon rain.

The café has started serving wine,
and turned on each set of hanging lights

while a man is cursing the mist
that always lets itself in through some
imprecision or fixture—

*

How was that?

Did it sound like any of this was happening
in Europe? Was there at all the distinct warmth
of a small and historical place?

Well. For a moment, it felt that way.

*

Seltsam is the German word
for a peculiar feeling, though it is a term far too silly
to bring much out of us
when it comes to imagining the world shifting
as you gaze upon it: the very idea that all things
could suddenly appear foreign enough
to induce disbelief or fright.

Or even to speak of the way in which discord
can induce those we once loved to become almost—
but not quite, unfamiliar. The moment it takes
to remember some element of intimacy or knowledge

when one feels like an object suspended
between two kinds of motion that can be recognized
but not reached. That silence.

*

Unable to fulfill or renounce his desires
Faust despairs: In jedem Kleide werd ich wohl die Pein
Des engen Erdelebens fühlen.
Ich bin zu alt, um nur zu spielen,
Zu jung, um ohne Wunsch zu sein.
Was kann die Welt mir wohl gewähren?

Meaning something like: In every garment,
I suppose, I’m bound to feel the misery
of earth’s constricted life.
I am too old for mere amusement
and still too young to be without desire.
What has the world to offer me?

It is this preposterous, odious burden
that is, of course, existence: almost,
but not quite enough pain to quit.

*

But perhaps it is not so bad as this.
Outside now, a homeless man stands up

and reaches out his arm. Some of its lines
are wrinkles nestled together.

Others are too strange to be anything
but illustration: dim and many,
indistinguishable from afar. Look!

He is using the Internet on his cell phone.

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