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to the reader, my rider, my love*

Egon Schiele

Bathed in the white gold of the early morning waves that kissed the reef

The angel’s skin glistens in the streaming rays between the shadows

Still lingering from the doubts and fears of a long, lugubrious night.

A confident whisper fills the room: “never doubt my love, never fear my disloyalty.”

Childlike hands stroke the frightened face of the pale nymph between the sheets

As her pastel voice chimes in trusting, artless tones: “the world is near, my love,

And wants a piece of you, a piece it takes from me & my humble possessions.”

Smiling the angel draws a pair of ruby lips nearer the apple blossom of her breast

“Be still, my dove, I give the world all it touches gladly. It’s only false glamour.

Let it bathe in its borrowed glory, which, the world snatches from those like us.

Be gentle and generous, my fairest. Like the morning wave, stolen glamour dries off,

Depositing its white gold in my skin. Fear me not, I gather this treasure for you,

To fill your veins with living gold, so when the sun rays warm your love-starved

kingdom, you too may shrug off fear and ride with me the waves of the world.”

Affrighted and alert, the nymph clasps the gleaming locks of his head bent in prayer,

“Beware my smooth operator, harbinger of love, those who seduce are easily seduced”

His eyes beaming grace and composure pierce her own and sting them to tears:

“The world is dead to me save for the poetry it inspires you to write to me,

And for that glory I will dive into its hellish depths, just so you have a word, a line,

A strophe, a poem ready in the evening when my light is all the shield you have

To protect you from the frightful monsters of the dawning night. The world is dead…”

The nymph covers his lips with her pale fingers, and speaks the rhyme herself:

“To me, save for the poetry it inspires in your dance, the dance of yesterday’s fashion

And today’s stoked passions, of tomorrow’s rockets and today’s uncanny trophies”

As if snatching her body, the angel merges with his nymph into one beam of light

And speaks again to the still frightened charge in his communicative care:

“We are dead to the world, but it isn’t dead to us, and in this breath of love,

Crucified on its own impossibility, we conceive it, carry it, and birth it each day anew”

The awed and terrified nymph draws the mourning veil over her visage:

“Do not touch me before I bury the world, your trophy, the grail for my blood.”

The reader is the ghost; illustration of Theodor Strom’s “The White Rider” Schimmelreiter

*on the occasion of the Feast of Guardian Angels, September 29

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