The Innisfree Poetry Journal
by Grace Cavalieri
Rilke and Rodin in Paris
What can a 26 year-old writer
who can barely speak French—
and a 60-year old sculptor
who only speaks German—
What truth did they hold together
that mattered to no one
other than themselves?
What moral arguments did they confront?
the one with the muscular hands—
the one with the lyrical mind—
What human sentiments could possibly appeal
across their cultures?
Perhaps something they had in common
was the beautiful Camille Claudel
who lived in Rodin’s studio.
Surely she sat outside their lives
as she stretched naked
posing for Rodin.
Perhaps to thwart the cold,
she shifted her body from side to side,
catching Rilke’s eye before he turned away.
Oh poor Claudel staving the drafts
shivering on her bed hour after hour
while the purposeful Rodin
fulfilled his intentions.
Rilke, no longer able
to ignore the apparition, walks across
to rub her white legs and press her hands
She looks at him with measured appetite
and something else like translucence.
Tomorrow, perhaps he’ll bring her
flowers—become a cultural
companion, perhaps bide his time
for a sip of wine.
Claudel is among Rodin’s many successes—
in fact, she formed so many pieces
he liked, they became
different versions of his own.
And that’s why Rodin carved his own name
on the bottom of the white cast clay
made by Claudel.
We cannot prove a
crise de nerfs nor how a mind
unlike our own
feels to have her work stolen.
Maybe she wondered what to do.
Maybe her thoughts were of
unimaginable blood thirsts.
But one sunny day when Auguste Rodin was away
surely she lay beside Rainer Maria Rilke
with determination and not just
a little talent,
for they somehow shared a belief that something
inside themselves could not be taken away
and thus Rodin’s mistress
became Rilke’s lover. Claudel climbed into the
big bed in the middle
of the world. And that was her revenge.
Did you think Love comes from nothing?
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