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Artist, do not believe that your test lies in the work. You are not what you pretend to be, and what this or that one, not knowing any better, may take you for, until the work has become your very nature to such an extent that you cannot do otherwise than prove yourself in it. Working thus, you are the masterly thrown spear: laws from Her throwing hand receive you, and together you hit the target: what could be more certain than your flight?

Your test, however, is that you are not always thrown. That the spear-player Loneliness does not choose you for the longest time, that She forgets you. This is the time of temptation, when you feel unused, incapable. (As if being reading as not work enough!) Then, when you do not lie there very heavily, diversions exercise you and try to see to what other uses you can be put. As a blind man’s staff, as one of the rods in a grating, or as the balancing pole of a tight-rope walker. Or else they are capable of planting you in the soil of fate, for the miracle of the seasons to happen to you and for you perhaps to sprout small green leaves of happiness….

-Rainer Maria Rilke, from 4X1: Works by Tristan Tzara, Rainer Maria Rilke, Jean-Pierre Duprey, and Habib Tengour

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A Quick One Before I Go

There comes a time in every man’s life
when he thinks: I have never had a single
original thought in my life
including this one & therefore I shall
eliminate all ideas from my poems
which shall consist of cats, rice, rain
baseball cards, fire escapes, hanging plants
red brick houses where I shall give up booze
and organized religion even if it means
despair is a logical possibility that can’t
be disproved I shall concentrate on the five
senses and what they half perceive and half
create, the green street signs with white
letters on them the body next to mine
asleep while I think these thoughts
that I want to eliminate like nostalgia
0 was there ever a man who felt as I do
like a pronoun out of step with all the other
floating signifiers no things but in words
an orange T-shirt a lime green awning

-David Lehman

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