Swimmers On The Eisbach
by William Ruleman (June 2015)
(Munich, Englischer Garten, 8 June 2014)
You let yourself be swept upon
Time’s swirling stream
In couples, pairs, or all alone
As in a dream;
As satyrs, fauns, and naiads too
For this one day,
This “ice brook” seems designed for you
And your fond play.
Like Böcklin’s figures, and yet real
On the racing green,
Your wet flesh flashes its appeal
In this leaf-framed scene
Where you succumb to the water’s surge
Before the call
Of workday drudgery stems your urge
For free-flung fall;
So give yourself to the current’s flow
To let it send
You on wherever it might go
And someday end.
I laud your reckless willingness
To leave behind
All signs of name, address, and dress
And as one mind
And soul and body just flow free
For this one hour,
Drifting through eternity
In Nature’s power
Unmindful of the single life
And its desire
For comfort, love, or wealth, or strife
In the muck and mire
Of the world with all its lust for work
And show of will;
The rut, for one brief day, you shirk
For freedom’s thrill.
Though one nymph clings to a willow bough
Most surrender to the Now
And know that here,
Full abandon to the whole
Is only wise:
Aware they lack complete control
In Fortune’s eyes,
They cannot halt their transformation
Through time’s course
So frolic in the rude sensation
Of its force.
Yet through the voicing of this verse,
Help me lend
Their lives (which may no doubt turn worse)
A beauty sans end
Despite the rocks and snags of Time,
The lures of hate,
Routine, the city and its grime—
A kindlier fate
(At least on this memorial page)
So others might
In some even darker age
Know their delight.
William Ruleman is Professor of English at Tennessee Wesleyan College. His recent publications include poems and translations in Ezra, The Galway Review, The Pennsylvania Review, and The Sonnet Scroll, as well as two books of translation: of prose and poetry by Stefan Zweig in A Girl and the Weather and of poetry by the German Romantics in Verse for the Journey: Poems on the Wandering Life (both available from Cedar Springs Books via amazon.com).
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