Trakl Diaries / 24
“His medical file lists the cause of death, as “Suicid durch Cocainintoxication!” When news of his death on the Russian front reached intellectual celebrity Karl Kraus in Vienna, Kraus reacted by claiming the poet was ‘“hardly a victim of war. It was always incomprehensible to me that he could live at all. His insanity wrestled with godly things.’”
—Rolf Schneider, “The Sweet Poison of the White Swan”
The Wrestler, 1912
The Der Brenner poets gather in the garden, fingers darkened by verses of black leaves and spider plants. They speak of ecstasy, how the muse mesmerizes the body. My hands sweep loose tobacco from my pant leg. Awake yet sleeping, sunflowers graze in the long grass. Karl Klaus and Adolf Loos criticize then praise the parallel streams of decay in my poem “Ellis.[version 2]” The exhausted stars sunning in your verse watch us lament. To weep. To dirge. Wail and howl. Trakl, esteemed friend, why do you write nothing but grief? The hazelbrush in Christ’s side gapes like a fish. Tiny pews—believers, crushed to their knees, do not need forgiveness. Stillness travels from my lips and the tweed of my trousers. We walk to the estate’s edge where hyacinth steals the breath of the pond, breeding vines and fat roots, a brown silty underwater forest where madmen hide with their serpents. “To express the inner, the outer must be radically distorted,” says Oskar Kokoschka. Art…not three but ten dimensions. I find myself wanting to drown in the pond’s thickness, inviting the plants to touch me, the swaying stems to intoxicate. The Klaus says the subjective perception is everything—the August heat smells of the unspeakable rain, and in the filthy peasant hut of my heart, the door’s left ajar
Trakl Diaries / 25
At twenty-three years of age Grete Trakl married Arthur Langen, thirty years her senior. Langen engaged the German-American avant-garde pianist as his protégé’s private tutor. The couple separated in 1916, after it had become clear that Grete would not become a concert pianist due to emotional instability.
The Kisses of God
Owls come out when the moon is up. Making a murmuring sound they hunt in fog and storms. He bids me to make room for him in the bride bed. “Child,” he says. “Beautiful child.” I make myself stay beside him when I want to vanish into the guts of the piano and hide between the 7th chord and diminished 5th. His feet are tiny, his toes cold as though stones. His body is thick, yet his chest’s hardly wider than the pillow, his ears stick out like quills. I am giving him my new skin to replace his old, my moisture to wet his dust. I pray for the white hairs he leaves on the pillow. The ashes of gravity draw his eyelids down. Spittle grows between his lips. A white spider drops its web onto my face. Then he gives me his kisses with his pointy tongue, it quivers and darts. The kisses of God. Yet I’m used to falling asleep beside him but I fight sleep. The claw toe, his shanks clamping me. In the farthest part of the night he rises high into the air over the bed, partially feathered on his thin wings. He will have me. The moon silhouettes me against the sky as he makes his sallies back and forth, up and down the scales. Circles of chords. The black key chords are sharps, and now they are flats. He tells me Liszt has appeared to him, ordering him to take one more, his last bride. My husband will feed once more, and inspire me.
Trakl Diaries / 26
“I care not to trouble you in regard to opium – although I hope wholeheartedly that you will obtain it for me within the next few days. In Georg’s face and mood you will see a faint reflection of my pain.”
–Letter from Grete Trakl to Erhard Buschbeck
Brother, your mouth sweet as a bunch of drowning violets, makes its pronouncement. Will you tell me to shift my weight more slowly, evenly, so as not to tip? I am deathly pale on my raft of sticks. River water, barely moving, a perfume of hyacinth and rotten eggs. Where are your hands so I can press them to my forehead? Your tears wet my face yet the thirst remains as if I’d drunk soiled lace. I throw a tantrum.
The rain again, a steamy drizzle. Mold shimmies from the air. Black heat fills every breathable space. I come looking for you. Remember how my fingers were measured? What a mild odor the dead world has. Not animal. Like soggy wallpaper. There’s no music here. No arpeggios, no double notes. The sun shines through the rain. The sun never goes out; it squeezes every wet morsel from my body. My limbs crack. I bite my splintery tongue and taste a salty mineral. Red jewel.
Around me the black water shows off its beautiful hot skin. A blue woman floats by and turns her pale eyes on me. Have you seen him? I shout loud for the cock-lofts to hear. Georg Trakl? Only stillness travels from my lips. A second sun rises, and the clouds part for it. I hunger for your voice reading aloud to me. Brother, I can’t hear myself breathe. I do not breathe and yet I see. A white lotus blossom sun blooms and so hot you can watch it curling down the neck of the sky.
I jump into the scalding river, but even in the heaviness of my brocade burial dress I do not sink. A needle-fish drifts by, its spearlike teeth alive. Swarms of silent flies. Brother, I’ve forgotten how to close my eyes. I’ll count my way back into our childhood where at 11 and 15 we played duets, where we lay in my bed naked yet pure as pear-flesh, now our shadow selves hover clothed in their fiery drizzle—blue milkweed pods with broken necks.
Trakl Diaries / 27
“After war breaks out in 1914, Trakl (a dispensing pharmacist) returns to his old rank of second lieutenant in the Austrian Medical Corp. and journeys to the Eastern Front in Galicia. After days of marching the army suffers defeats at the hands of the Russians.”
—From the introduction to The Last Gold of Expired Stars
The Battle of mud and 1 harpsichord
Sister, I can hear nothing but your Sonata for Two Pianos in D Major. Your dark head bends over the moonlike keys. A mare lies on the ground still bridled, two ravens feasting in her intestines. Villagers’ garden plots are trampled–an army forages the furrows for roots and tubers. We are marching, each toe stone-heavy—has turned into black toads and shed their skins. The sky grows green as if a marsh at twilight, we take cover in wet slimy rushes. One foot up, one down. 8 First Violins. 2 Flutes. A lone grey wolf broken from the pack was sighted yesterday. The men refuse to shoot it. Before noon a great army rises up in front of us. Russians. A forest of them. Our cooking fires still smolder. Bombardment begins. Sister, I wish to mop my brow on your silver dress. The trees hide snipers, long guns that take the recruits from their bread to putrefaction. Shattered men whimper, making the harsh cries of guinea hens. No bandages, no stretchers. I remember town boys wringing the necks of screaming hens to quiet them. The battle smells like the remains of a thing not seen on this earth in a billion years. 5 Bassoons. 3 Cellos. Another bombardment, at the banks of the River San, perch worn down by the current. Under the whistling and booming of the shelling the linden tree spreads its white scent between the music sheets whose pages I turn. Custard in fresh cream. Rain keeps trying to put out the battle, to drench the machine gun belts and snipers. Rain splashes down. Higher. A musical Eucharist. Faster the river races and now the fish give out. Perch go mad and eat their own eyes. 2 Hunting Horns.. Listen to the water rushing onto land; blackly the trees have tried to run, they are caught. They stand up to their knees in the blood. They become men. Tall eyelash trees. Falling. Sister, still the black rain throws down its thick drops. Terrible defeat. The rhymes identical. Two ravens feasting. 1 Harpsichord.