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Home / Poetry R. M. Rilke / Poetry / Skiing



Rhyming on skis


Skiing is a mode of living:
Life is now, an affirmation,
time in motion and elation.
Carpe diem
! Life is skiing.

Skiing is a state of being: happy trance
in blinding light or blanket mists,
on perfect runs or frozen pistes :
a drugless high, a game of chance.

White out is when contours vanish under steel grey skies
and tricky slopes surprise us with surprise:
The piste looks blue -- it's very black --
seems flat, drops shaply down -- you can't go back!

Skiing is a form of movement therapy -- away
from doing and producing, letting play
be raison d'être, jousting like once valiant Ivanhoe,
inventing brave full-body tournaments in snow..


How often office work induces mild misanthropy,
an overdose of people, politics, diplomacy ! ...
the best escape is mountain stillness, empty slopes,
the muted dialogue with long abandoned hopes.

For living as for skinng let our rule of thumb
be Delphian μέτρον άριστον!
There is a time for everything, for skiing fast
and skiing slow, for jumping, falling, laughing to the last!

Skiing is a modus to recalibrate reality.
A mobile phone on slopes -- what sheer antinomy!
We ski to live a different hic et nunc and free
our latent self, articulate our fantasy.

Mountains itch with skiers striving
strenuously for citius, altius, fortius --
not pausing for the vast, majestic views,
just racing on -- and not arriving....

Freedom is our language, JOY the default setting --
free of avalanches, free of icy moguls fretting!
Sunshine bathes us, feather white clouds beckon.
Optimism is the vital force all skiers reckon.

Alalin, Dufour, Mont Blanc and Matterhorn...
each mountain has its secrets for the newly born
on skis or boards. What mysteries they hide!
What magic they reveal to us in gracious pride!

Reckless in vitality, forgetting to relax --
we jump, we fall, we rise with youthful hopes,
in fast and furious dance we take the slopes,
we laugh and race the blues, the reds, the blacks!

We laugh and ski and merry be
and merry be, Oh! how we ski!
We laugh and sing and merry ski
those minefield moguls wild and free.

So wild and free, hors piste we dare,
while magic lies upon the conifers,
the winds composing their own verse,
and sundust glistening in air.

Through speed we try to take possession of the hills,
invading wintry landscapes with bold martial skills,
aggressively as if to conquer timeless time
and plant our fiery flag on nature's boundless prime.


O happy Dionysian metaphor:
white oceans undulating to a distant shore,
full body bath in speed inebriation
narcissistic and mercurial in expression.

"This slope is mine" -- notorious skiers' syndrome, sign
of wanton solipsism on cloud nine.
What joy when skis are newly sharpened, freshly waxed,
we feel our racing mood awaken, legs are sorely taxed.

When skiing hormones flood our happy veins,
oblivious of tomorrow's muscle pains,
we dash through faery landscapes, trees bewitched,
it tingles funny in our limbs -- with snow we're hitched!

We orchestrate rash music as we rush downhill
and carve our loves on snow, our fantasies fulfill.
In rhythmic headlong exhibitionism
we express our individualism.

Singing down the slopes enhances joy.
Vienna waltzes are the best to bounce and buoy,
we bubble with the Kaiser waltz in alpine wise,
Blue Danube, Merry Widow, even Edelweiss!

Oh what frustration when the chosen piste is barred!
Sweet jubilation when again it's free, and whether hard
or velvety. Forget, my friend, to lunch or rest.
Ski on, ski on, for lunchtime skiing is the best.

These kids learn faster than adults and ache to race
in forest runs, do fancy jumps with hurried grace,
ignoring dangers, scarcely knowing any fear
and then they cut before us in the line with shameless cheer.

Boarders need good guardian angels, patron saints,
like Don Quijote charging windmills recklessly,
like brazen mountain goats defying gravity
when jumping cliffs with no regrets and no restraints.

Like young Icarus skiers soar in ecstasy,
as avalanches sweeping down in anarchy.
For style I laud instead the dancing telemark
who swing in rhythm, turning skiing into Art.

Fashion on the slopes is de rigueur:
There was a time when monoski was coup de coeur.
Today the mini-ski is popular with adolescents and adults,
who leap like agile felines knowing all the nuts and bolts.

New adepts brought skibobbing to the slopes, a dangerous invention,
fast at 120m per hour scooting giant slaloms in declension,
feels like dry jet skiing, dizzying as alpine vertigo...
how many more next season will be racing in the snow?

Yet youngsters seldom slalom -- jubilant they race
like arrows headlong down the satin pistes, they chase
each other etching on the powder slopes their trace,
Alhambran arabesques of alpine lace.

On canvas three-dimensional they boldly sign,
but soon they wipe each other’s traces line on line.
They write emotions like beach frolickers on sand,
ephemeral, erased by radiant Phoebus’ hand.

To each his own -- a sporty chacun à son goût!
On monoskis or boards, on sleds and velos too,
we listen to our inner Muse when jumping free
and feather-fall on airy pillows sensuously.


The latest trend: the fearless parapent with skis.
From lofty slopes they slide airborne in Genesis.
Above the pristine snows they float in silent flight,
they glide in solitary, pantheistic rite.

When snow and ice encrust the chairlift frame,
and chunks drop on your head -- Oh what a shame!--
hard helmets help and laughter soothes your cares,
recalling being hit by friendly snowballs unawares.

Bottom-lifts and T-bars may be ecological,
but when they stop midway the fright is pathological,
for sliding down steep narrow tracks is dangerous,
and heavy snows next to the teleskis are treacherous.

Some teleskis may give you quite a jolt,
and if you fall, it's no one's fault.
Dismounting from a T-bar takes some skill--
alone is safer, though it dulls the thrill.


Moutain music: swishing sounds of skis and boards on snow,
winds sweeping over slopes: a murmuring adagio...
babbling brooks beside the pistes... How water speaks!
Above a solemn silence reigns on solitary peaks.

Beware though: winter witches practice frosty sorceries!
In Belalp witches squeal when riding brooms on magic skis,
they conjure mountain spirits, spraying wildly white on white,
they frolic casting spells upon the crests in hedonistic flight.

Kaleidoscope of uncontrolled emotion,
carnival of masks and colourful commotion,
fine hyperbole and metaphor of liberty,
for skiing is a festival of anonymity.

Like mardi-gras in Rio, multicoloured helmets, caps and hoods,
a masquerade of flashy scarfs and rainbow goggles -- festive moods...
Rejoice, for skiing opens up in us a fourth dimension,
spacial time, eternal space, a promise of redemption!

In Flaine fast rhyming pistes Mephisto and red Faust
get skiers' literary libido aroused.
Notoriously the bard loved mountains far and near,
although no sign in Flaine attests: "Goethe was here".

Behold: the broken rock asserts itself on high,
attaching to the blueness of the winter sky.
Black cliffs pierce through the untouched snow--
and higher glides the elegant jackdaw.

Snow blankets sparkle three dimensional,
when sunrays touch the crystals, make them shine.
Alive, they spring, they scintillate ephemeral,
remind us that each moment is divine.

The virgin snow seems sugar sweet,
like icing shaped by colder winds
that whirl at night until they meet--
in twisting dance around the peaks.

We skiers know the paradoxes of the glacial sun,
hands warm in muffs, hearts joined in amorous frisson.
From valleys dim we pierce through stratus to the height,
on radiant summits we breathe life, breathe light.

Glacier skiing, glacier glories, glacier charms:
the price is often pushing, pushing with your arms,
not quite cross-country, heavy on the knees,
yet genial for the soul, no matter if we freeze!


There blue-green glaciers silently regress,
their rigid walls disguising danger
in sheer beauty -- broken crevasses
and crystal castles dazzling every skier.

Rescue dogs and hounds on sleds provide hilarious lols:
A sight for weary eyes, when canines jump to catch snowballs
high in the air, and sometimes chase their masters as they ski,
tongues hanging and tails wagging, proving thus their loyalty. 


Enticing ice builds blocks of rugged ruins:
Glaciers -- witnesses of generations.
Perspiring mountains in the flaming ice
wield edges sharp as swords of paradise.

Brown totem logs test glaciers' changing moods,
capricious as they move through frosty neighbourhoods.
In solitary radiance glaciers induce Zen
in white and blue as Eden once again.


Skiing is communion with creation,
with a host of wild terrestial treasures.
Skiing offers rapid sensual pleasures,
deeper yet a spiritual initiation.

Skiing is a cosmic soul epiphany,
a vigorous, dynamic fantasy,
a vital self-libation for creation,
Thanksgiving for each revelation.

Skiing is a school that unites nations
cultures, languages and generations.
Youngsters, seniors and all in-between
are drawn by nature's bounty, nature's sheen.

We skiers hanker for infinity
when chasing ever faster after destiny!
Past icicles, trees draped in ermine white we fly,
a tip toe star smiles down on us with winking eye.

The liturgy of snow knows many holy places;
sanctfifies Sapporo, Sochi, Whistler -- all Olympian races:
Kitzbühl sings the Kyrie, Courchevel the Credo, Gstaad the Gloria,
Saas the Sanctus, Banf the Benedictus -- skiing in euphoria!


Pre-Christmas skiing, feeling young and lean--
our hearts and limbs rush with adrenaline,
old instincts come alive in alpine merriment
with appetite for empty slopes and white Advent.

How luscious: virgin ski pistes, freshly raked and combed,
untouched as yet by morning skiers, nor by hikers roamed.
Delicious too: a night descent in dazzling lantern lights,
with blazing flares as once in atavistic pagan rites!

Pistes prepared but newly covered with fresh powder,
Soundless gliding over talcum, soothing, sensuous baby powder.
Pachamama knows we need good snow this season
Hence she trims the trees and us with frosty reason.


O wondrous winter skiing, symbiotic sun and cold!
O Janus joys of yin and yang for young and old!
O holy Easter skiing -- still a chance for snowy thrills!
Pure blessings -- urbi atque orbis -- as God wills!


Winter clouds shape sculpture over skiers' sky,
angelic forms that waft and sanctify,
ephemeral like garlands, white camelias,
winter cirrus, strains of maiden hair, bohemian glass.

Snow faeries fill the air with fleeting ice,
the crystal spray enchanting skiers' eyes.
A myriad diamonds glitter on the trail.
Rejoice! for skiing is a faery tale.

When pristine snowflakes fall on us like angel tears,
we witness art for art, a million busy years
of cutting crystals, etching Karlsbad glass on ice;
unique each flake, divine in symmetry and size.

We feel the twinkling frozen sprinkle, magic  glare
of crackling cold that shines in jewell-studded air
when blowing over slopes as fairy glitter glory,
sparkling as champagne -- our tipsy New Year’s story.

Brilliant gems encrusted on the pistes and floating in the air,
a frosty Providence today has lavished luxury so rare
with crinkling crystals under skis and scintillating oxigen,
so volatile and fragile as fine Delft-blue porcelaine.

Late spring skiing, canine skiing, satisfies
alone addicted skiers with heroic thighs,
who navigate through heavy slush and greening shoots
in melting snow, avoiding rocks and naked roots.

Summer skiing, glacier skiing, sun-burn skiing,
sporting t-shirts or bikinis -- well-worth seeing!
Empty slopes and sunlight granting prolongation,
glorious, glorious celebration of creation!

Yet global warming challenges UNESCO heritage.
Will snow-white peaks soon turn to pasturage?
No panic yet, for climate cycles have well-ordered reasons.
Skiers shall not be deprived of Chione's seasons.

Red snowplows rumble after hours, packing white on white,
their beacon eyes illuminating empty slopes at night,
preparing well-groomed, sensuous boulevards aloft,
where skiers slide as if on flying carpets silken soft.

When skiing white on white your legs become your eyes.
They sense the ground, the moguls and the ice,
conduct ecography, relay topography,
let instict see, guide skiers instantly.

We chase our restless shadows on the snow,
bold alter egos, gallant ghosts we scarcely know.
Blind skiers clad in yellow bravely cast their shadows too
on canvases of white, with monitors who obstacles eschew.

Snow canons silver spray scraped pistes and scraping skiers,
tempting youngsters to intrepid, acrobatic change of gears.
Snowmobiles and helicopters rush to rescue, whisk
the injured to repair, for fun comes always with its risk!

Rhyming on the teleski is safe and can be fun,
composing under snowflakes or capricious sun.
Beware, though: rhyming on the slopes is tempting fate,
for poetry on skis may legs and shoulders break.

Freeriding in Belalp is quite a modern Odyssey,
Freenavigating Scylla and Charybdis -- rhapsody
in snow, ignoring Circe's warnings -- confident
that skill cum courage will avert an accident.


Archaic China knew ten thousand yeas ago
how to advance in snow, as old rupestral paintings show.
Back seven thousand years in Russia ski was practised too,
as acheologists reveal, ahead of Scandinavia's wooden shoe.

Perhaps Neanderthaler boys built boards to glide
to neighbouring Cro-magnon girls and venture wide
in search of food and happiness. Perhaps they fashioned
snowmen, snowballs -- just for fun -- like us impassioned.


Blessèd are the skiers, blessèd in the plenitude
of virtuous runs and prodigal Beatitude.
Blessèd we who live in Alpine Angelus of praise,
and if we sometimes sin against the rules, we still get grace.

Behold a solitary cross upon a silent promontory.
Mindful skiers pause to praise the glory.
Skiing thus becomes a mode of prayer,
every turn a sanctus by an organ player.

On higher slopes we skiers may surprise the bock,
red deer, discrete chamois, when jumping rock to rock.
With us they share their mountain habitat
-- and keep their distance as survival caveat.


Some lower pistes run past brown sheds where sheep
may shiver when they see young skiers leap.
In springtime sheep graze where the pastures are snow-free
and primaveras grow between the rock debris.


We gaze upon the rabbit's trace,
which noonday heat will soon erase.
Its imprints seem so blue upon the white --
its daily search for food in winter's plight.

Below in valley villages the alpine cows
find shelter, while their bells with chapel bells
resound. There too the pious peasant dwells,
still one with nature through primeval vows.


Behold the alpine chapels with their spires,
the snowbound chalets with their pinewood fires.
Tonight we drink vin chaud and can relax,
but now we race the blues, the reds the blacks!

Race on! For skiing is a state of being:
Living now in joyful affirmation,
taking time and space in exaltation.
Homo ludens:
Sport is Being!


(c) Alfred de Zayas, earlier versions of this poem were published in UN Special No. 692, February 2010, p. 35, and in the literary journal of the University of British Columbia Esoteric, to celebrate the Whistler Olympics.














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