Anthony Cuellar Jr.

Rilke’s Revenge

Rilke rocks in the corner
clutching a silk hankie.
He’s sad.
We know because he says so, and because his sadness is not
a regular sadness, this is Rilkean sadness
steeped in the pinioned tears of the terrifying angels.
Salomé is pissed.
He does this at EVERY party.
Thankfully Houdini has arrived.
Time for a trick, he says,
and whisks away a tablecloth – of course
no wine is spilled, no appetizers
fall to the floor – it happens so fast –

and with a flourish
like he’s laying a flag on a coffin
he covers Rilke. Now there is just a quivering, shapeless
form in the corner, like an odd piece of art
intentionally placed there.

Salomé is pleased.
Even the crying is muffled to a conversational level.
Why hadn’t she thought of this before?
Also, Houdini is pretty ripped.
She goes to show her appreciation.
Even the guests don’t mind
as the kissing is quieter
than Rilke’s emotional hysterics,

and despite Houdini’s theatrical acumen
he’s surprisingly passive in his romantic
gesticulations. You can stand right next to them,
someone says, and eat a canapé, and really, quite pleasant!

Someone cranks the music, the party revs up,
and Rilke is forgotten for awhile.
Eventually Salomé remembers.
She looks to the corner.
Surely Rilke must have emerged by now,
probably left the room with no-one looking,
ashamed. That will be a mess for tomorrow
she thinks.
But the form that was Rilke is still there.
Only it is no longer moving.
Something clutches at her chest
and it isn’t Houdini’s magical hands.
She shuts the music off.
The figure is still.
Something is wrong.
She can’t bring herself to peek under the tablecloth,
motions for Houdini to do it.
Houdini does. The cloth hangs for a moment
then falls.
There is nothing there. Rilke is gone.
But what held up the tablecloth?
Houdini checks for hidden wires, cables,
tape. Nothing.
Perhaps it was the angels? one of the skittish guests offers.
Salomé thinks even when he’s gone he’s a buzzkill,
but her heart is equal parts
anger and fear. Houdini sees it in her eyes.
He’s not getting laid NOW. The guests begin to leave.
A master of exits, Houdini gathers his things.
He tries to say goodbye, but Salomé is staring at the empty space
and does not hear him. Ha ha, laughs Rilke, from wherever his sorrow
has transported him. Ha ha. Ha ha.


ANTHONY CUELLAR JR. has many books in mind but none in print. He hopes Rilke’s ghost will forgive this slander and not haunt him with bouts of loud sobbing.