for anna akhmatova
robinson crusoe

Author: SAID
Translator: Amy Kepple Strawser


Translator’s Preface
These four poems originate from a section of SAID’s ruf zurück die vögel (2010) along with four others also named for, or dedicated to, famous historical or mythological figures: “icarus,” “for rosa l.” [Rosa Luxemburg], “for alexander dubček: november 1989,” and “return of icarus.” Those four appeared bilingually in International Poetry Review’s Special Issue: Voices in German (Spring 2012) in my translations.

Here we see another interesting set of characters represented: the Russian poet Anna Akhmatova (1889-1966); St. Francis of Assisi (1181/2-1226), the patron saint of animals and nature; the fictional figure Robinson Crusoe (title character of the novel by Daniel Defoe from 1719); and the German poet Friedrich Hölderlin (1770-1843). In brief poems of short lines, SAID encapsulates astute observations of his subjects’ intentions and fates. Yet these figures—ones the poet may well have admired—are not spared his sharp eye. His ability to distill one or two key facets from their life stories into snapshots of crystalline verse speaks volumes about his poetic skills. An air of mystery and intrigue lingers in each of these poetic musings. One can easily discern neither authorial praise nor disdain here. In these poems, SAID provides miniature lyric morsels of his heroes—or antiheroes—which leave the reader with more to savor and digest than may first appear.


for anna akhmatova
and then came eleven friends
to learn your requiem by heart
from then on they slept no more
they murmured softly
in locked rooms
each on their own
night after night


clambering down
to the flayed limbs
of your bride
and yet
no trial by fire meted out
wisely the sultan
rejected you
the tender backs of the geckos
have little room
for your reveries
the nights in assisi
are tenuous
you invented the lie


robinson crusoe
you count the days of the week
until friday comes
and serves the guests
friday counted his enemies
on his fingers
before he consumed them
at first he rejected
your salt
for the flesh of the vanquished
yet with your bread
he too
betrayed the wild ones


departed on foot
to become a stranger –
for whose eyes?

and then
for the entire flight
to stare at the beloved
river flowing?

“come into the clearing, my friend!”
scardanelli awaits


From SAID,  ruf zurück die vögel: neue gedichte, C.H. Beck, 2010.