Dinner With the Ghost of Rilke

by Laurie Byro
Desert Moon Review
Third Place, January 2009
Judged by Elena Karina Byrne


Come here, to the candlelight.
I’m not afraid to look on the dead.

I was confused by snakes looping
around your neck, the little girl voice that you had
to swallow in order to please your mother. I told you
as you twirled a red flag to draw away the slathering

wolves that you would never disappoint me.
The crumbling bridge where we said our goodbyes
all those years ago must even now contain
the echoes of our voices sleeping in its seams.

How many inexhaustible nights did I stay awake
to answer your letters? You asked me to steal something
risky, something I couldn’t take back across the street.

Greedy for praise I filled my pockets with
sugar. Outside the café the night becomes a snow globe.
Held in your gaze, winter takes me back.


"Come here" the beginning of "Dinner With the Ghost of Rilke" commands. Because of the strength of diction, we follow this instruction and immediately become participatory, complicit observers. Rilke's "necessary irrepressible... definitive utterance" colors the voice that is swallowed, a presence, nevertheless, heavy as two pockets full of sugar. --Elena Karina Byrne

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