Rainer Maria Rilke Goes to the Gym
Sometimes you hear a cry as of a bird
Or a strong angel and a violin start
On the corner, such as you once heard
In a forgotten street of your mind’s heart,
And you think of bodies striding apparatus
As you might well have done had you but listened
To their singing and known the full afflatus
Of the stars where all the windows glistened
With your childhood, and so you entered in
And paid your fee and learned to run or row
With your whole body, breathing through your skin.
You transcendental creature! Where will you go
To be yourself? And will you still be fit
Next year? Says spirit: You must change your kit.
George Szirtes was born in Hungary in 1948. He published his first book of poems, The Slant Door, in 1979. It won the Faber Prize. He has published many since then, Reel (2004) winning the T. S. Eliot Prize, for which he has been twice shortlisted since. His latest book of poems is Mapping the Delta (Bloodaxe, 2016). He has won various international prizes for poetry and translation of Hungarian poetry and fiction, including the Man Booker International for his translations of László Krasznahorkai.