The man who went on a Walkabout was making a ritual journey. He trod in the footprints
of his Ancestor…singing…—and so recreated creation.
—Bruce Chatwin on Australian Aboriginal spirituality
The world does not exist until you sing
it into existence, though you are not the first
to call it forth. Others before, back
to the very beginning, have freed it from its mind
prison, given it life, only to have it disappear,
again, like a baby’s favorite toy
hidden by some teasing adult. That toy
is gone for good—there’s wailing till she sings
and coos when it suddenly reappears.
It’s like she’s seeing it for first
time, not as some shadowy image in her mind
but shimmering and vibrant, unwilling to back
down or retreat. It’s time to draft Rilke back
into service—Apollo is no toy
deity, and to enter his Temple requires a mind
that’s undefiled and a hunger to sing.
You must set aside your youthful soulful anthem first
and let your show-stopping belting disappear
so that an exalted breath can appear
like some god sighing in a back
antechamber for the very first
time. Don’t let others toy
with your world or degrade what you sing,
or urge you to keep it locked away in your mind.
Begin to excavate, make sure it’s mined
and brought to the surface, appearance
corresponding to reality. Then can you sing
what others have sung, wander anywhere and back,
your path like a musical score, a wind-up toy
unwinding, an extravaganza of first
causes. Your ancestors were the first
to create, and you must always keep that in mind
when you replicate, as with a magic toy
recreating what would surely disappear
or disintegrate, hauled off on the back
of an ancient beast—if you fail to sing.
Leonard Kress has published poetry and fiction in Massachusetts Review, Iowa Review, Crab Orchard Review, American Poetry Review, Harvard Review, and elsewhere. His recent collections are The Orpheus Complex, Thirteens, Braids & Other Sestinas, and Walk Like Bo Diddley. He teaches philosophy and religion at Owens College in Ohio and edits creative non-fiction for Artful Dodge.