R. J. Sobel

The Shortcut

I am so sad and everything is beautiful by Harriet Garfinkle

Carefully mussed hair, ink smear on his neck, he catches up with me after class, both of us heading to the library, and asks in a sleepy voice – as if he’s not yet gathered the energy after spring break to face the day – if there’s a shortcut to the object of Rilke’s counsel that one ought to wait to live a whole lifetime before perhaps being able to write ten good lines. I’m reminded of my elementary school teachers’ timeworn admonition that to cheat on a test is to cheat oneself – as the ink smear to my old eyes resolves into a tattoo of the kanji meaning “song.” A song of a seasoned life, I think, given those few good lines, born of the journey, may rise above all the stubborn resonance … the cries and raptures of our vernal refrains … pebbles in my shoe. But feeling a bit slack myself – having stayed up late into the night, parsing memories for the faintest scent of their sweetness – I say, “I haven’t found a better way,” as we hop the fence.

morning fog
a crow and a dragonfly
each in its own lane

Note: Rilke reference is to a passage in the novel, Die Aufzeichnungen des Malte Laurids Brigge (Rilke, Rainer Maria, Insel-Verlag, 1910).


About the author:
R.J. Sobel was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1949. He is the author of the four volumes of poetry The Seasons Suite: Momentary Vagrant, Purview of the Sky, Leaves of Entropy, and Dreams and Other Lastings , as well as other works of drama, lyrics, poetry, and prose.

Image: I am so sad and everything is beautiful by Harriet Garfinkle. By permission.