Tuesday, October 25, 2011


The Ecstasy of the Sculptor Steiner

I would turn my skin, so fair and pale,
into something beautiful (not macabre
or historical) like papyrus
and write there the truth: I live in fear.
Tiring fear! that soon, or now, something near
will turn dark, with a minimum of fuss,
and no turning back or show of power.
With death so close, my skin should be a sail.

--after the movie by Werner Herzog
Steiner was a wood carver and a competitive ski "sailer".
The ski sailers of the 1970s flew far beyond the
artificially constrained limits of Olympic skiers.
He's currently a gardener in Sweden. The lucky stiff.
We've never met -- the voice in the poem is fictional.

The Right Stuff

Beyond a certain point, atmosphere fails --
as its own skin fails the salt burned child --
until the gasping jet chokes on nothing
but freedom pursued to a sacrificial end.

The siren sounds our hurry to descend:
a welcome home of skintight fire, distant bubbling,
and desert quiet intent on being mild.
When we are done, a single echo wails.

In the movie's penultimate scene, Chuck Yeager
crashes in the desert an experimental plane by flying higher
than a mere jet could go.
Another Icarus.

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