To a worthy foe,
I wish I could see your triumph.
I really do. That’s the thing about enemies, you see. There is a certain amount of love that has to go into that struggle. There is a certain amount of need and desire, because if there is no one there to vanquish, then what are we who strive even to do?
I wish I could see your triumph. I wish I could look up at you, broken and shattered, bleeding in the dust of unknown plains, and know — truly, utterly know — that I have been defeated, that I have been crushed and destroyed.
I wish I could see your triumph. Is that self-sacrificing of me? I really don’t know. It’s not my place to know these things.
I wish I could see your triumph. It’s my goal to succeed, to prevail, to come out the other side, to make it through, to win. It’s my goal to come away with my own triumph, but always, always there is that niggling little doubt, that secret desire to lose, to be beaten in a fair fight and have it proven to my face that at least someone could bring me low and understand that hey, at least she tried, right?
I wish I could see your triumph. I wish I could see elation in your eyes. I wish I could see you laugh. I wish I could see just how it looks for you to set aside that way you devote every erg of energy to struggle and give me one of those full on, deep-throated belly laughs that I know we all hide somewhere in our bodies.
I wish I could see your triumph, and I wish that, should you see mine, you understand just how much love goes into our struggle, just how much need and desire I hold for you.
Do you laugh, sea foam? Do you smile, ice, and observe your triumph with an angel’s remove?
Every now and then I catch a taste of Rilke, hidden around some corner of my mouth. Every now and then, I think, every angel is terrifying, and then I’ll go about my day, repeating that like a mantra: every angel is terrifying every angel is terrifying every angel is terrifying every angel…
He saw someone do that, I think I remember the story went. He was walking and saw someone face the sea, throw their arms wide, cry out to sea foam or ice or some unseen rank of angels, and…well, I don’t remember if he heard them, necessarily, but that’s how it went, right? Who, though I cry, would hear me among the ranks of angels, and then hundreds of lines later, ten elegies.
So whenever I get that awkward-shaped piece of grit between my mouth — every angel is terrifying — I think of that scene. I think of the way we elevate the unknown to some higher place that ourselves. I think of the patterns we hunt for in the sea foam, in the waves that can take us under or bash us senseless against some barnacled rock. I think about the crush of worlds implied in the calving of an iceberg and how easily that could destroy. I think about that rank of angels who, holding me to their breast, could so easily annihilate?
Do they laugh, the sea foam, the ice, the angels?
I write in fire across the sky, a plummet to match your rise.
So then, my angel, I wish I could see your triumph.
I dream of it, that moment. I dream of falling to my knees, or being so badly broken that all I can do is lay there, unmoored, and look up to the way you rise above me.
I strive against angels as I strove against men, against the world, against the cruel vagaries of my former self and all his countless failings. Some have left me reeling, some have left me on my knees, head bowed until it almost — almost! — touches the ground, and I’ve had to spend a day, a week, a year catching my breath.
But never have I striven against angels. Never have I striven against you, my angel, and there is sweetness in defeat.
There is sweetness in defeat.
I wish I could see your triumph.