Theodore Enslin, “Letzte Traum”

for Margaret Nash and C. L.

Letzte Traum (from Poetry)
Theodore Enslin

All right

the call has been

the last one

and to make

anything out of it

I shall have to

get up
      into the noise.


I was asked about slam poetry recently. I remember being blown away by several slam poets who had complete command of the audience, who brought a powerful presence to emotions felt every day. I mean more than stage presence, though that was there. What floored me was the ability to make every syllable, note, position and silence count. I got the feeling that you are the poem when a slam poet, in a way that you might not be in more formal poetry.

This little bit of verse speaks about what is involved in speaking aloud. The curious versification of the first and last lines makes me group their words in my own recitation. “All right, then” is familiar enough. “Get up into the noise” is not so familiar and yet a self-fulfilling imperative.

It’s a really beautiful, everyday image. We’ve all been at parties or bars or clubs where we had a drink and saw everyone else doing their thing and we forced ourselves to let go, to try. And Enslin has taken that feeling, that ambiguous confidence, and made it the heart of something not more but maybe just as profound. We somehow recognize a call as the last one. It’s just a noise. We’ve been ignoring it for that very reason. To make it something – to make anything – the word has to be transformed. This isn’t like crafting a statue, with material like stone and a means like a chisel. In a way, all we do is go into the call itself.

I don’t want to romanticize speech. We lie to ourselves a lot. Heck, I lie to myself at least half the time when writing these reflections. But Enslin leads us to wonder how just a noise is a change. We disappear into the things we say to ourselves. I wonder if “all right, then” was the last call.

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