At twenty-three years of age Grete Trakl married Arthur Langen, thirty years her senior. Langen
engaged the German-American avant-garde pianist as his protégé’s private tutor. The couple
separated in 1916, after it had become clear that Grete would not become a concert pianist due to
The Kisses of God
Owls come out when the moon is up. Making a murmuring sound they hunt in fog
and storms. He bids me to make room for him in the bride bed. “Child,” he says.
“Beautiful child.” I make myself stay beside him when I want to vanish into the
guts of the piano and hide between the 7th chord and diminished 5th. His feet are
tiny, his toes cold as though stones. His body is thick, yet his chest’s hardly wider
than the pillow, his ears stick out like quills. I am giving him my new skin to
replace his old, my moisture to wet his dust. I pray for the white hairs he leaves
on the pillow. The ashes of gravity draw his eyelids down. Spittle grows between
his lips. A white spider drops its web onto my face. Then he gives me his kisses
with his pointy tongue, it quivers and darts. The kisses of God. Yet I’m used to
falling asleep beside him but I fight sleep. The claw toe, his shanks clamping me.
In the farthest part of the night he rises high into the air over the bed, partially
feathered on his thin wings. He will have me. The moon silhouettes me against
the sky as he makes his sallies back and forth, up and down the scales. Circles of
chords. The black key chords are sharps, and now they are flats. He tells me Liszt
has appeared to him, ordering him to take one more, his last bride. My husband
will feed once more, and inspire me.