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The Wars are Coming Closer
There is nothing you can do about it
In Case of Illness
The Fruit
The Final Image

Author: Kurt Drawert
Translator: Lina Fisher

 

The Wars are Coming Closer

The faded flower arrangements
at the heroes’ gravestone:
they do not mean anything now,
and we are forgotten, too,
in our cities –

at the close of summer, later,
when at long last
no one speaks of victories anymore and the scriptures
reach their silence,
that which we devised lies uselessly,
like the flotsam of deserted shores,
spread across mortal stones –

for now we walk upright
among machines and cast offs
for now nothing is final,
for now the other animals
seem to sleep in chemical swamps –

but the wars are coming
closer and closer.

 

There is nothing you can do about it

The first sentence is missing. The second
will be a blonde, boundless dream
in the damaged body
of the nation. There is nothing
you can do about it. Perhaps
all it is now is
biochemical misery
caused by poor diet …,
emotional vestiges
without a society to utilize them…,
maybe mindlessly mind-blowing …,
added value without machine
and manual …,
and the only other thing I know of
is a journey to Poland during which
one loses one’s speech.

The silly figure earlier,
finished off with a high dividend yield
and well suited
to being lied to from all directions
twice.
Decidedly too close
to my window. Something is stirring
and wants to shoot right away.
There is nothing you can do about it.
I am also merely a guest
in an unspooling film
and suspended
without purpose.

This, in any case,
is how one provokes friendly fervor and calls
off the next state occasion.
And this is true: after Auschwitz
the Germans are
entitled only
to poetry. But the wagons
continue
to circle along their customary course.
A funeral procession, the quiet assertion
traded as the latest news
among philatelists.
The rest sets off at speed, always
along the mainline. Downhill
is a self-sustaining direction.
No angel turns the screws,
no deserters in sight,
who line the roadside
to be counted out,
meanwhile no saving grace grows.
One would have to buy
Hölderlin’s optimism, and anyway,
a false passport in your pocket
year after year,
you get used to it.

And there is nothing you can do about it,
says a voice at the window.

 

In Case of Illness

Just because you briefly keel over,
nothing needs to be revoked for a long while yet.
Someone will loosen your clothing,
someone will undo your shoes.

Trust them. Trust the nurse’s
grip, the stab in the vein
and the realization of autumn.
A small, inflamed corner

will surely be where your world weariness lies,
the speech you made yesterday, your indignation.
Take courage: the black of their eyes,
it means help

will have been given to you. They only search
you for jewellery now, they only
size you up. Trust them,
these are your judges. And bide your time

for a while. They are already writing something down
or off, they are already passing on
the file, they have already set the cart rolling
below. Your sought-after person

disappears, dignified
as always, on that level
below the ground. Indispensable,
even if you’re almost naked,

next to the others and half open
like a hastily passed doorway.
Routine, say very dark voices
behind the curtain, child’s play,

the porter could do it. Believe it,
the gods are talking. None of this will affect
your personhood after all, your guaranteed
civil rights, the colleague

who seals up your desk,
sets up the appointments. But there must be
a final ablution,
a dim light before nightfall.

 

The Fruit

For now the fruit lies,
outstandingly beautiful,
on the ground.

But as soon as tomorrow,
in that spot
which hit the ground

hard
the rot would set in,
slowly,

from the inside out,
at first a small
still quite pretty tinge

of the skin.
The autumn
of its life would also

pass quickly,
and before
the wind turned,

it will have grown
silver mold
and assembled

parasitic swarms
of flies in its wounds.
Industrious maggots

it had brought along
from the trees
gather

and cross, from the core,
its flesh: a small
animate shredder,

an assiduous workforce
to break it down.
Then would have come the hour

of decay
and the stench of the end,
corporeal sludge,

nothing else would speak
of youth
and of the proud beginning.

But for now the fruit lies,
outstandingly beautiful,
and conceited, on the ground.

 

The final image

Nowadays they sing in the marketplaces
of the West. I used to see them up high on the podiums,
we were dressed up then and played pioneers,
adoptive grandsons of proud Russian folklore soldiers.

Later the angels fell
like rotten fruit from branches. Those who were grown-up enough
shovelled the graves. Their songs did not change.
Though a red nose made of card completes the picture

and explains what the words conceal. Thank you.

 

Selected from Kurt Drawert, Wo es war, (Where it was), Suhrkamp 1996.

Ozymandias

Author: Kornelia Koepsell
Translator: Marielle Sutherland

 

He could still go out and save the life of someone.
Instead, he sits there, slumbering and drunk
in some bar or other, eyes voided, sunk
deep in his doughy face. Night in Manhattan.

The universe leaves him cold, and when he hears
the sirens howl and sees the flames erupt,
his taxed heart falters and falls flat.
What sense is left to bring the world to peace?

Lurking close, forlorn nocturnal shapes,
itching to plunder, grasping, inching in.
Manhattan has grown vast on ancient myths,

now fading within him. Long past now, the times
of superheroes, when he leapt from buildings, when
he could still carry children in his arms.

 

From Kornelia Koepsell,  Weißes Rauschen: Gedichte (Edition Faust 2015)

Stonemasonswife
Sorrow Islands, The North End of Outer Hope
Swimming
Carpet

Author: Kinga Tóth
Translator: Annie Rutherford

 

Stonemasonswife

an angel flew past over our heads
stonemasonswife breaks through the wall
in the café on the terrace between brightly coloured chairs
they fly away her mouth is red her wings covered in flowers
they scold or curse with lovely
words seven generations of all your father’s all your mother’s blood
each of their descendants
for every knocked down brick a man’s heart suffers
they knuckle down to work let it
rain on the town there are no stonemasons left
no one who digs ditches not a single one to be left
between bricks above the park
fly the vengeful stonemasonswives
the wind whips their clothes beads clatter in their hair
in their braids orphangirlhair orphanwomanhair
the silence of the left-behind children
the left-behind children don’t cry don’t make
a noise their limbs become pale as they
are beaten they creep into the backrooms
learn to nestle into doormats
between the fabric braids no one can reach them
their legs stretched out they lie on the threshold
the doormat is their blanket their shroud
when their back cracks from lying or from a shoe
when they don’t dare to sigh anymore
when fathersshoe crashes against their spine
dirt from fathersshoe falls into their mouth onto their face
father works father is hardworking the dust from the street
onto the floor onto the skin onto the
question which ricochets off the ground
if it’s like this if father’s quite deaf
and if there’s a crash he has gone properly deaf
then blood and only a sigh can be heard
a single constant voice
when the last sound of the doormatchildren is to be heard
mother is already fluttering round the rooftop
around the wooden house like a destroying angel
like a warning leave the shoes outside
watch where you tread
my weight is lighter than the smallest brick
his weight is lighter than the smallest rags
two kicks and the voice disappears
two kicks and you take the oven’s heat from the house
like cement sloshing onto brick the cowardshair
drips onto the mat and impurity onto the child’s face
their shoes had to be cleaned before the door
that kind of thing isn’t allowed into the flat only when it’s him
who works who makes the things who makes the something
the flat of whose hand is calloused the flat of whose hand
is industrious the flat of whose hand is broken
because his work sticks fast to it
monstrous-monstrous toil and strife
stone must be mastered iron must be bent
fire must be smothered blade must be sharpened
tools must be cleaned with leather with knife
the knife must be put in its case and sharpened
the house must be built and she who asks questions
must be walled in and silenced and then the house
must be cleaned and the antennae mounted on the roof these thirsty
veins still hang there like
the bloodthirsty buzzingthreatening quietflying stonemasonswives
their last dresses are still there the wedding dresses hang from them
which they wore twice both times too soon
and they easily fitted into them for there had been no time
to put on weight there was no time for buttons to burst off
and the coward didn’t have time to dirty
his trousers at the knee either not even time to fall or
to test the trousers in the rain before the early winter frost
and these antennae these electrical jungles
winding round each other catch the ankles
the hem of the dress the hem of the slip
which was lifted so carefully to keep it good
even before when they didn’t yet want to receive it
she didn’t want to crawl into her dress just yet
into her skin tear out her heart her liver
her gut and hold them tight and see how she
goes slack and her hair grows full of heaven flowers
like these many many stonemasonswives circling there
they called her saltprincess or saltangel
because behind the walls she shed so many tears
because her fluids wreck the mortar like
enamel because where they flow the paint the protective paint
beads off they wish in vain to cover her up
in vain they paint over her anew for easter
on monday a new figure of a woman always appears
always a silhouette a conical amphora
a raised index finger
and the salt pinched the stonemasonsfaces and
there was nothing more to be done because they became
translucent forever because the wall swallowed her up
her hair tangled up with the straps of her dress
and the women still hanging from the antennae were
like the maypoles there on the wooden houses’ roofs
maybe they didn’t have any hands any legs anymore
the whirlwinds are whirled they’re whirled
the translucent sunflower posies the kites
the faded exclamation marks


[Translator’s Notes: Kőműves Kelemen (Clement Mason) is a Hungarian folktale about the building of the fortress of Deva. The castle keeps falling down while being built, so that Kőműves Kelemen, a stone mason, is forced to sacrifice his wife and mix her remains into the mortar to make the castle steadfast.]

In 2020 the Hungarian government rejected the Istanbul Convention. One woman dies every week in Hungary due to domestic violence and 15,000 children are injured each year.

 

 

Sorrow Islands, The North End of Outer Hope

replacing with bones, welding with tape
we knead gold by the breach where it was dredged
what fell out where you thought when you didn’t dare to ask
had only seen the valley
the darkgloom stones scatter as you climb
lower are the water plants dried out the sand
is cold on the ground another crack the hot metal
into it and sand it quickly in case it flies
out of the body too glue it quickly the sand becomes salty
the gold stream salty smear the ground with the thighs
the upper arms heap hills
roll our rumps up it lie our rumps on it
our chests hollow half-circles to new
layers here the algae the coral also become salty
leaving the veins the mortar is slippery crying with salt
making gold pouring out mountains not every layer
is topped with cheerfulness but the gold is warm
and the water is warm on your face
in the armpits

 

 

Swimming

 

in case the water lifts your legs
I hold you by your stomach at first
then you’re to let go for me
just throw yourself up from the palms of my hands
you will float like a frog you believe you
wriggle you kick them into foam
your suffocation bursts into bubbles
the water lifts your legs (it isn’t my hand that holds you)
your stomach leads me your stomach tells
the water in which direction to strike or leave you
these 2cm beyond which you don’t want to see
above my hands because of which you want me here

 

 

Carpet

in my ribcage the lion
the peacocks bring feathers for my arm
I give feathers from my arm to the peacock
I let my hair become a wave in the water
covered by my dress in case the earth burns
I lift myself into the water, weed
the earth and exhale air
twice a day in case it hides
dirt and gas and smoke we all know that
this is the three-steps-mechanism my skin
I give to the leaves I make oxygen from
parchment I fray the carpet the old one
stray onto the new one we go the
carpet rises with my soles if you
can believe that our skin turns blue
slippery fine porous you can come with us can
go can step onto this fabric which we
wove a stray bit of your hair is one of the strands
became matted with the hair of mine which you cut off
but we can remove the strands you can
have your own means your dreams are your own
you are the dream’s I fly

 

 

badamm badamm
don’t come closer i’m freezing
if your house burns
“and as for hope, i learned that deep in the forest”
30
april, the tail-end

Author: Juliane Liebert
Translator: Gwendoline Choi

 

badamm badamm

this year, our parents started dying. they put down their scrubs, keyboards and steering wheels and marched off to the hospital as if they had made an appointment. we were far from adults ourselves. my mother went first. we took her straight from work to the hospital. she was yellow as straw and declared the whole thing a routine check-up, asking for the daily paper and chocolate and liquorice kitties to be brought to her bedside. the next two weeks, i watched her swell up. the more her mind went, the more she loved me. i sat at her bedside and watched her fade away. the doctors asked me to sign for the procedures needed to maintain the complicated system that was her body. signatures for infusions and colonoscopies and punctures. i went to doctors, caretakers and even more doctors, i sterilized my hands before and after i left her room. i prayed, even though i didn’t really pray. she kept swelling, her feet couldn’t hold the water, her arms and legs kept swelling more and more, her skin chafed ‘til sore. i bought her toiletries, a red lipstick so that she could make herself look pretty as soon as she was better. she died for 23 minutes, was revived, lay there in a bed of warm air, her heart beating, badamm badamm, the doctors wanted signatures, badamm, i stroked her hair, i had to wear respiratory masks when i was with her. they called me the morning of easter sunday, she was clinically dead, they had kept her body alive so i could say goodbye. i walked down the corridor, holding my little grandma by the hand. she lay in the middle of all these machines like a queen, 300 cubic metres of machine for a bed where nobody was left. her heart was still beating but her internal organs had deteriorated, or so i was told. we went, she went. i was left alone with her full flat and her half-full refrigerator, while outside, spring began.

 

 

don’t come closer now i’m freezing

don’t come closer now i’m freezing
as if i had a thousand bodies one
per revolution one per pulse one
young one old one in a petrol station
in lapland one with bangs that don’t suit me
and my mother who’s still crying
while i’m already eating onions and feel you
through all the skins: your fingers
burning animals upstarts
people roaming

we’ll be rich in the shelter
of our arching ribs we’ll start a circus
we’ll be the belly-less lady
the clown with the iron lungs we’ll be
the high wire the bengal tigers the dwarfs
with the ceramic feet shapeless vessels
now don’t hold still i’ll make us
two children one from wood
one from air one hard and
one soft and you
suckling in their place

 

 

if your house burns

if your house burns, what d’you do?
fetch water, sand
shut the burning room
save the kids, the dog
call for help, warn the neighbours

pour oil
into the fire so that it’s finally torched
and you’re rid of it
this damn house

 

 

 

“and as for hope, i learned that deep in the forest”

the trees stood as if freshly gathered (or as if they were standing in line:
for a loaf of bread) the sky digested planes
the brickyards hired themselves out: as reading rooms, as inflatable castles, as lawns
a self-protection facility by every blackberry hedge

only we slept peacefully. on the radio
songs lied, and it wasn’t just
the two of us lying in the grass, now friends
but also hedgehogs and flies loyal to home
an occasional deer. a trampoline
at a set table in an apple orchard

 

 

30

i’ve no father
i’ve no mother
i was born at 30
from a top ramen cup
and a dream

 

 

april, the tail-end

it’s been summer for two months now
another plague: the sky
unfazed indiscriminately blue
day after day

(have you noticed
that you can’t hear any planes nor see
any jet trails)

even the trees do their daily jobs
you don’t begrudge each their longevity, you say

but you’re only interested in those
who were born from deficiencies: ease
always carries pain in its luggage

a quiet wind machine
a quantum cautiousness

sound is to be understood as agitated air

 

From Juliane Liebert, lieder an das große nichts, (songs to the great void),  Suhrkamp 2021.

a mere house cat
is it going to snow again?
the germans with their distance fetish
in love lurks a desolate dungeon
kissing well is when things turn liquid
foreign

Author: Elisa Aseva
Translator: Priscilla Layne and May Mergenthaler

 

 

[a mere house cat]

a mere house cat I will probably never be able to keep. I have gotten to know these animals while wandering around, have admired them for exactly that.
on the farms there have always been countless numbers of them: they hung out in front of the barn or in the back at the widows’ settlement, they rested in the parlor, stared lying in wait for the fish in the meadow creek.
the farmers somehow lived together with the animals, against the animals, off the animals. time and again you stood in the blood, faced with lacerated animal bodies, men in rubber suits, guts. so I stuck with the cats that were threatened only by tractors + trucks on the freeway.
yet unfortunately affection comes in shades: the striped cats I liked well enough, but my true love was for the monochrome grey, white + black ones. the latter, by the way, were called mohrle[1] by the widows, when they liked me, they called me the same.

the blackness of the cats appeared extraterrestrial to me, as if they could drown everything in it. like a silhouette that has been brought to life, an omission from the universe. + and yes, of course I wanted to be black like a cat. to absorb every light.
not to cast shadows, but to be one

 

——-
[1] “Mohrle” or “Morle” used to be a common name for black cats in Germany. The name comes from the word “Mohr,” which was used to denote people with dark skin color. Adding “le” serves a diminutive function, implying “little black one.” The word Mohr is from the Middle Ages and consists of two words: The Greek word moros which means dumb and godless. The Latin word maurus which means black, dark and African. In contemporary Germany, Black Germans and anti-racist activist consider the word to be racist and efforts are underway to rename streets, pharmacies, and other locations that contain “Mohr” in their name.

 

 

[is it going to snow again?]

is it going to snow again?
in berlin that always wears me out, the unavoidable mud, the dirty arduousness. both are plentifully available in the city anyway, after snowfall things fall apart. well, there is that one exciting weekend when kids packed up like insulated bundles pour into the parks. their sleds leave tracks behind, in them there are remnants of new years’ fireworks. here this color of old blood, there on the tree trunk speckles of sulfur. on the exterior wall posters arch down – piss that band that they like now played again. urine would’ve been a better name. stuff like that agitates me sometimes, when it is so obvious. no it doesn’t agitate me. it’s just a half-baked indifferent idea.
soon it will drip. snow pains me, when it falls everything else stops.

we’re standing at the window, looking through the glass fogged up by your breath. changing traffic lights.
i want to count down the world, up to your skin up to every word that is no longer needed. stay.

the cars start, they follow the blown over brake paths. gravel, eyeliner.
i put on some coffee, turn on the radio. nothing will remain, danger of slipping on ice.
maybe it just won’t snow anymore, not really. just one less vulnerable spot.

 

[the germans with their distance fetish]

the germans with their distance fetish. even in an intimate circle of friends there are
quite clear notions, this or that is PRIVATE, that is actually transgressive + whoever reveals too much
of themselves is at the very least, pitiful.

perhaps national socialism has left behind a hidden and at the same time physical
disgust.
to germans, anyhow, it appears that feelings taste as good as sour milk.
+ closeness is when you take over the toilet stall from someone just to stand in the middle of their fumes

 

[in love lurks a desolate dungeon]

in love lurks a desolate dungeon – the possibility of loss, of abandonment.

Two people catch a hat + bump into each other recognize +
talk talk talk. about themselves of themselves
the wind carries them like merry leaves –
in the morning they tell each other fragments of dreams, laboriously.
eventually they release the parachutes
wheeze their fears into a scarf, throw their worst and silliest at
the Earth’s surface hurtling towards them.
the color of corn + rivers cast in lead.[2]
tentatively, first nips. stained by wine they remember their
childhood childhood cannothearaboutitanymorechildhood
eventually they place shimmering moths at their ears
+ and sprout blossoms while kissing

yes come shut the door lay the hand there pull up the covers.

in this color of this time
landing.

land but dive into the ground
more kissing down to the end
not the hand
don’t find
mouth agape
plunging through plankton
+
everything

in the end 1 leaves the other in order to keep her as the one who never leaves. the one who’s left behind swallows the keys.
all’s dead that ends well

 

——-
[2] A German New Year’s Eve tradition, banned in 2018, consisted of tossing molten lead into cold water and guessing one’s fortune from the resulting figure (molybdomancy).

 

 

[kissing well is when things turn liquid]

kissing well is when things turn liquid.
no, not just spit, I mean deeper,
in the muscles + other indurations.

kissing well is when I reach you,
making you partially firm + and partially soft,
without you turning into mud

kissing well is gums.
kissing well is falling but without fear.
down up over + away.

kissing well is an opportunity:
tossing into the waves
+ and sinking all the way to the ground.

the skill consists of not thinking about suffocating.
we breathe air for generations.
kissing well washes off fear from the anxious, faith from believers
worries from mothers.
we send floods.
algae waft + and jellyfish are rising from the bridges.

come here, coral. your reef sets me free.

 

foreign

foreigner – nowadays this term is
frowned upon but i like it.
if someone asks me whether i’m german, i
say:
god no, i’m a foreigner.
when they keep asking then: african.
that i like because it often really bothers people.
(“really africa? one can’t tell by looking at
you. thought
you were from brazil/cuba/phillipines”). + nowadays it’s
only partially true, in
ethiopia i am also still
foreign.

a free vast word.
i want to live where the foreigners
are, eat with the foreigners,
love foreign, think + importantly:
grieve – they just don’t do that
here.
thus i dream that whenever
i die everyone will have become
foreigners, each in their own way.

in all people there is a foreign place. + who
knows.
maybe we will someday border on each other

 

From Elisa Aseva, Über Stunden Posts   (c) Weissbooks Verlagsgesellschaft mbH, Berlin 2021 www.weissbooks.de

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kloppitz/Kłopot nad Odrą
And tended snow in my warm hands

Author: Marion Poschmann
Translator: Margaret May

 

Kloppitz/Kłopot nad Odrą

Bodies, depositories of history, one replacing
another, all alike, ordinary
in the light of day, leaving
trees at the roadside, a type of tangibility,
bodies, bloated, gaunt and
drawn daily deeper
into goulash and noodles, into pea
soup, the pungent smells of noonday,
of recognisability, tables,
canteens, repeating each day’s
weakness, soothing, benches
at evening next to the houses, bodies
soak up the warmth of the walls
to ward off winter, the return
of the repressed, a west wind swirls smoke
over from (what once was) Stalinstadt,

believable, nearby smells, deposited in layers,
calling up what came before, images of diesel engines,
remembered lignite, fields, all ploughed,
‘storks breed in this place’,
‘built upon sand’, soft
bodies in which this occurs,
bodies, yielding, it’s everywhere
so very much the same

The terrible has many forms,
but none more terrible than man.
Sophocles, Antigone

And tended snow in my warm hands

you were only dreaming of a long-haul flight.
Only yesterday I stayed in deep-snowed
mountains. Now they are levelled,
dissolved, as simply as you would
defrost a fridge. I saw water flowing,
saw ice break in blocks from the rock face,
it all fell into the valley, turning
liquid, turning to valley, turning to nothing.

Only yesterday I worshipped mountains.
I bought picture postcards, sent them
to myself at home, to remind me of
the work of destruction I was doing here,
I thawed out Greenland just by gazing at it,
I melted the glaciers while flying over them
in deep devotion. Nothing we wish for is

impossible, as the saying goes, and where there’s a will
there’s a way to render the thin air still
serviceable, to conquer the terrible,
the most terrible of all,
quite simply, as if, asleep in your armchair,
you were only dreaming of a long-haul flight.

 

“Kloppitz/Kłopot nad Odrą” from Grund zu Schafen (Frankfurter Verlagsanstalt 2004)
“And tended snow in my warm hands” from Nimbus (Suhrkamp 2020)

(for I.
maribor
steep coast

Author: Anja Kampmann
Translator: Anne Posten

 

(for I.

He left last year
in the days that followed
you often saw shadows on the branches of twigs
and the sea
washed up whalebones, whose secret midpoint
he sought
A constant outline like the black
within the lighter stripes on the asphalt
or shall we say stones, smaller dancers
inextricable
the mosaic of time or
shall we say patterns a flock of rooks
makes against the sky
shall we say November and fainter light
or shall we say breathflakes and memory
an eternal reversing
like the Chinese man in the park in Paris
shall we say vines on the houses
the sparrows, their fluttering, the anatomy of flight feathers
on an early fall day the midpoint
of every sound
that passes through us.

 

maribor

a heart failure of light
an intrusion into yesterday
a river with plums on the banks
pears a market
and when tito came the villages
and when tito came the healthy
men and the healthy women
and the children who took their dogs on ropes
away with them
and afterwards
and in the woods the shots
the woods the woods the hills
with soft greenish light
and in autumn in summer winter
and the early abandoned year
as it followed the others
it followed followed each other away
the fishers the butchers
nuts to gather nuts
a hollow thud from inside
an emptiness in the fruits and who
picked them up who ate
of them what remained maribor
with whirls of glass of glass
the dogs came back first
with their long slack ropes
that were never dropped only held
tighter and pressed in the
blind hands the forgotten hands
with the lashes
to go swimming to dive
in the village lake in the village pond
in the depressions of the landscape
in the reflections of a new day
the lashes lashes and the dog’s
rope by day and under
the memoryless clouds
in the greenish greenish
where someone came where everything fades
as one goes.

 

steep coast

it’s almost sunday
the wolves get trapped
in the cliffs it’s the sound of the sea that hits us
the rolling of stones ahead a few boots
in the rock how the waves wash against the air
running the wind swells the cape the space
for your small memory yellow
as they ran children who stick out
their tongues in the rain sea salt
to learn the howling of the wind afresh
with the spray comes love rough
in all its ancient languages.

 

Anja Kampmann, Proben von Stein und Licht.  Hanser, 2016.

Something Small
the sum of goodbyes
In stages, at the lake
Les fleurs du ⁠[ʃa ɛ̃]
Temperature change
Long in the tooth landscape

Author: Melanie Katz
Translator: Jen Calleja

 

Something Small

So you approach with
three barrels of preserved lemons
underneath your grey robe
maybe exposed concrete
maybe some kind of spun lace
from Paris, perhaps

And also
oh, yes
in your hand
a turquoise insect

I should, you say
and open your fist

should I, you ask
a small animal flies

away

 

 

the sum of goodbyes

this is how we plucked
the blossom petals
from one another’s eyes
they fell into my open hand
we stood there
and discussed the night
with our gazes
until it started to rain
we handed one another
small (smooth) pillows
made of foam
fed each other
I’ve carried
faint and gently mellowed
minutes
in my bag ever since
beneath the airstream
I can feel them
throbbing inside

 

 

In stages, at the lake

Beneath feathered trees
Sky crumbles into mosaic
Shadows pieces blue
Spiders throw
sticky silk in my face

Later the moon drips onto the paper
Twilight settles
on my eyelids three cubic metres of
fog

 

 

Les fleurs du [ʃa ɛ̃]

Thus Rilke transformed
into a rose-petalled rubber eraser
slipped in next to me under the covers

from there relentlessly whispered
stories in my ear
about knives and gaff-rigged schooners

about the grammar of chocolate
a paper garden
he wrote to me: listen, listen, listen!

The great epic
of an envelopment

 

 

Temperature change

Do you remember

there was a garden, the flowers, the house

Now the world turns around weeds and milk-glass
-hued flavour enhancers
there are stained clothes, three alarm clocks, the dog

Earlier it was you
today I realise
that it’s me

 

 

Long in the tooth landscape

Old toothless building beauty
You’re such a ruin, Martha
very tender
somewhere an abandoned fan is still turning
enviably
and there’s plenty of ship and sand
in Eberswalde again the evening
a wide bar
on the map of your passing years

We’re still waving to you
saying goodbye

 

 

Melanie Katz, Silent Syntax.  hochroth verlag, 2018.

Alphaversions

Author: Liesl Ujvary
Translator: Ann Cotten, Anna Dinwoodie

 

966
This is my body. I am currently in this place. I have certain perceptions, ideas, feelings. I am doing this and that. I am the cause and the controller of my thoughts and actions. I am talking about myself and thinking about myself. I have a conscience. I am the person I was yesterday.

1068
Scientific research repeats, confirms, and expands earlier insights. As if I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. The food looks bright and fake. Around the station, the ground is bare, the area has been burned off and sprayed with long-lasting herbicides. The zone is reminiscent of the empty space between a fortress and the outer wall, the shooting range. The burnt ground crackles under my feet, the leaves whisper in the wind. The riverbed is as lush as a summer garden. They will surely kill me at the next opportunity. The gardens are paradise: orderly, calculated, organic, and precise. A straw I must grasp at.

1069
Reality does not hate you. But her intimacies are ominous. This is not an interactive program, nor is it a virtual reality… Real breezes play with the leaves, real shadows darken the ground in the forest. And death is lurking outside. Real death. I am trained for this. You know how to work this sensorium, right? Remain basically alert, and keep an eye on the screens. The weapons are terrible, the defense genius. I can hardly be seen in the wet twilight. The danger is obvious, screaming at the sky. There follows a reorganization of my knowledge and my inner life, in a way I have not been programmed for. I am afraid of the details.

1070
We are soldiers at war. We see each other die. It is chilly tonight. A shroud of cirrus clouds the sky. This contradictory mixture of feelings: fear of the future and at the same time a nervous high-spiritedness, a sweet whiff of freedom. I am alone, shivering, naked in a forest I have never seen the likes of before. I climb out of the water, up the mossy riverbank. The black earth is soft under my feet. The boulders are overgrown with velvety green herbs. I don’t know how I got here and how I am supposed to find my way back. My heart is racing.

1071
They have me surrounded. I do not recognize them, but they recognize me, I have no doubt. I close my eyes and think about the stubbornness of life, the universal desire to melt and unite. Caustic substances, some extremely aggressive and decidedly toxic. I touch my nose and stare in surprise at my fingertips, drenched in bright red. So this is death?

1072
Alarm level 1. I am not alone in the woods… but I feel alone, especially after midnight. Being alone does not scare me. Other things scare me. The systems are insufficiently adapted to the biosphere… the wind in the trees… depthless, uncanny. Oh, it’s nothing physical. My border surfaces are intact. The forest glistens in the night rain. The water flows from step to step, from the full depressions of the leaves into the overflowing chalices of the flowers. The light west wind stirs up mold spores, a fine, sticky dust. Today the forest is peaceful, no predators in measurable distance. Delve deeper into the biosphere? Am I brave enough? I will be careful.

1074
Emotions are not a luxury, we cannot live without them. But how can emotions be described in the language of neurobiology? They are complex collections of chemical and neural reactions, triggered in the brain, forming specific patterns. They depict the state of the body and guide it at the same time. Emotions thus use the body as their stage – its chemical processes, its organs, and its muscles. Their regulatory activities are supposed to create situations which are advantageous to the individual. It’s not that I am feeling bad. Quite the contrary. At the moment I feel surprisingly fit, walking through the sunlight and swinging my arms like I haven’t since I was a child. The path follows a low chain of hills to the east. The chain of hills becomes a rocky plateau, clusters of green plants nest in the earth between the stones. I call uo the weather report; nothing has changed since this morning: no clouds, no wind.

1075
Same genome, same organism. But expressed in a radically different way. Reacts to the environment. My only advice: Keep your eyes open. Keep your back free. You do what you gotta do. What you have been trained to do – training gains ground on panic. There they are! There they are! The dreams are terrible. But isolation has so many faces. Am I still the same person I was three months ago? Am I feeling better or worse? I no longer sleep properly. I am moody. There is no safety. Every day is a risk. Outside, the air is fresh and humid. Outdoor lamps flare up and blind me for a moment. I take a deep breath. Inside and outside, the systems break down.

 

Liesl Ujvary, Alphaversionen 966-1137 (Digital edition, 2003).

Childhood Memory
Unreal May Day
The Linden is in Bloom, and It is Night
After the War
Stele

Author: Reiner Kunze
Translator: Kay McBurney

 

CHILDHOOD MEMORY

When the swallows gathered to fly away,
the bird-barbed wire
strung between the electricity poles
fenced off the village from the sky

And the people were
imprisoned, sentenced
to winter

To telegraph wires
with no birdsong

To the empty nest
within their breast

When the swallows gathered
and their tail- and wingtips
marked the border

 

 

UNREAL MAY DAY

The cherry and pear trees flowered in such abundance
that they metamorphosed
into white clouds

Enblossomed, the village
floated up

With our white hair
we affected belonging
and became weightless

 

 

THE LINDEN IS IN BLOOM, AND IT IS NIGHT

The air … so warm and deathly still
Adalbert Stifter

The linden is in bloom, and it is night
The droning bees are silent now, instead
the air is teeming with stars

Man, that itinerant beekeeper flitting by night to pastures new,
the bolts of his hives slid into place, air flaps open,
wheels rasping,
hungers
for other honey

He has measured the curvature of the firmament
and sets off
to those distant shimmering swarms

Eve’s genes murmuring within him

But no matter how far he extends the radius of his heaven’s sphere
into boundless space, he will only ever fly
along the inside

If we wanted to understand the otherness of the world,
we would have to be
other

We humans under linden trees, in bloom,
at night

 

 

AFTER THE WAR

The farmers hoed over the harvested fields
until the furrow mounds
were trenches

Strangers who dared
venture too close were shown
the horsewhip

Hunkering in the undergrowth,
we waited in the wood
until above the smouldering haulm fires
the moon rose

and to our hungry mind’s eye
an unattainable,
ember-split
potato glowed

 

STELE

What
I
have
seen
no-one
should
see
no-one
should
have
witnessed
this
Though
anyone
who
did
see
it
would
have
been
better
off
dying
soon

[Varlam Shalamov / Kolyma]

 

Reiner Kunze, Lindennacht.  S. Fischer Verlag, 2007.