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The Empathy Poems project is designed to raise awareness about the plight of asylum seekers and refugees.

Historic Torso of Apollo

       (with apologies to Rainer Maria Rilke)


Its legendary torso once stood in Palace Ephrussi,
Vienna[1]. We only know that Elizabeth Ephrussi
charmed her mentor and friend, Rilke, to witness
its marble brilliance, to find a correspondence

in himself, in her. All that is gone. The Ephrussis fled
the Nazis, broke and broken, they died in the wreck
of their once sumptuous world. They fled unwelcomed, 
rich in all but what mattered just then, one family

of so many. They lived as those now live, who flee
from Syria, Senegal, Rakhine State for a chance
to live without fear. Those we leave to perish in camps,

in snow, in the ocean, their many riches frozen, bitten,
wasted but their memories of ancient beauty still lyric
despite it all. Rilke’s friend is among them, her history a beacon.
You must change your life.

[1] See Edmund de Waal, The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance, Vintage 2010. De Waal writes of his family, the
Ephrussis of Paris and Vienna, including Elizabeth’s friendship with Rainer Maria Rilke.

 

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