become flesh, an ensemble of characters
darjeeling could be a color
journey around the world, illustrated in one’s own hand

Author: Carolin Callies
Translator: Bradley Schmidt

become flesh, an ensemble of characters

1st pers. sing.
I wanted to leave your shame be
& more than just the useless bones;
leave you the feebly scraped word

& more than the lint in
the swollen parts of the eyelid
scaffolding standing before you.

2nd pers. sing.
you’ve become a flat construction:
profound lacerations & not even a flesh wound.

3rd pers. sing.
a suspicious beery, bowlegged tongue,
just lying fallowed. just old assed:
this discharge, sucked into a lap, can rarely be sugar coated.
only thing that helps is to sequester his member.

1st pers. plur.
we gathered up the last of your skin particles
to pack them in the boxes with the crumbs
& then ourselves to join them
loud & driven by sorrow.

2nd pers. plur.
you’re united by the lack of a foot
& the opportunity to brag about it
& more than just hint at your contraption for it.

3rd pers. plur.
this loans needed for a blemished body
were numerous & the spare parts accidentally shredded:
tracks, containers & cables, for example.

all the things that would at least be washable.
laid out to dry along the river & and the tubes.


you have clots, necks, moles,
pegs, corks, red veined;
what were the folds, marble shells
collar: the last thing leans out of your hands.

what were the epidermis corruptions, fingertips,
day albums, giddy with lines
& there on the mouthpiece
nothing more than your hand-sewn lips.

darjeeling could be a color

washed faded & I lay you out, tea-skins.
your limbs are carried:
you carry them dry on modest frames,
on iron & salt.

frozen to form & I salt you, jittery,
wash myself with your towel:
it’s the feet that I wash,
your ankle deep feet.

journey around the world, illustrated in one’s own hand

the circumnavigation of the smallest of things:
hoisted up & continents on your fingers.
listen to that eloquent stuff: who still strikes sails these days

& how many trunks can you construct?
at your feet a mill & map material
& a mouth made of postage stamps.

From Carolin Callies, fünf sinne & nur ein besteckkasten, © Schöffling & Co. Verlagsbuchhandlung GmbH, Frankfurt am Main 2015

Residual Warmth

Author: Kerstin Preiwuß
Translator: Bradley Schmidt

He only feels sorry for them in summer. Made for soft soil, their paws scrape on the wire, their fur, thick and oily for life in a damp habitat, cinches ever tighter and dries them out till they suffocate. Then they drop like flies, and when he goes along the cages he can reach in and gather them up, one after the other. There they lie, paws protruding as far through the mesh as their webbing allows, no longer trembling. Then it really gets to father, so many of them all at once, it moves him, no one is immune, the fur can’t even be used. They’d have to be kept moist, three baths daily, but that would take too much time and water and energy, after all there’ll be more to come. He mates the survivors together in the next rut, and then the females whelp and give birth to new mink, and everything starts anew, for seven, eight months, till the pelts have formed, then he grabs them by the neck with forceps and places them on a table, pulls them apart, inserts an iron rod into the rectum, forces a metal ring into the snout and holds them down till the current courses through. They immediately stretch out and are dead within about a minute.

But it’s inefficient, just one at a time, and watching them die starts to get to you. It’s better to do it with gas, put twenty or more into a box and pipe in exhaust fumes so the fur isn’t damaged. No bullet holes or knife wounds, just gas. Gas silently entering the nostrils and after about fifteen minutes making the bodies suddenly go limp, so he can get them out with a shovel later, so many in one fell swoop. Then the bodies lie there on the duckboard as if mowed down, and there are droppings on the ground. Then they are only pelts that are pulled from the warm bodies, till every mink looks like a naked mole rat. The skin is white under the fur and the faces are blind since ears, eyelids and noses come off with the pelt. There’s hardly anything left in the end. The pelt is stretched on a board, paws and tail stuffed with paper, and placed in a well-ventilated room to dry. Then they are sent off and processed into something greater. No more outlines to be seen, their bodies disappear into the folds of a coat, and some woman will soon run her hands over it. Her fine leather gloves are so thin that any mink could mangle her fingers, but she only feels the warming fur, light as a feather, its tips trembling.

So it continues for months and years on end, and no one lays eyes on the pelts, the fur immediately delivered to the furrier and then off to the trade fair in Leipzig, where it is sold abroad. Father once saw a brochure advertising mink pelts, finest quality made in GDR.

It affects father, it afflicts him, he can’t get rid of the smell hanging over the farm like a pall, death lurking in every smell of wild animal, and sometimes the trembling of the mink transfers to his hands and he wishes he had a different job. But he ended up here and can be grateful for it. After the war he helped dig graves in the cemetery, so many of them, big and small, for the men and women and children who had hanged themselves, walked into the lake, or died of tuberculosis. That and the ashes given to the roads department were too much for him, there had been enough of that in the years before. So he trained as an agricultural inspector, where you only had to test the grain for pest infestation. But that was right on the border and he was never at home, and you have to watch out, your manners deteriorate when you’re so far away from your wife and children. You bunk together in a bungalow, four to a room, and sometimes the empty bottles roll over the floor in the evening, what with the memories, they all had their crosses to bear. I could tell you stories that would open your eyes and make your jaw drop. When we advanced through the Pontic steppe on our way to the Crimea we spotted horses, camels, and antelopes in the distance. In the middle of the steppe the road took us past a Garden of Eden with a zoo and a botanical garden. It had been the brainchild of a German prince. Now, everything had been abandoned and all the Germans were gone, save for a cross for an old lady, the mother of the prince most likely, whom people said the Soviets had shot in her own home. As we marched on we encountered German houses with pointed roofs and white Ukrainian huts thatched with straw. We burned the huts to the ground. Beforehand we watched movies of naked-legged dancing girls.

But it’s better to sit together and drink and say nothing at all, there’s enough solidarity, that also warms you up, and look at this, a bullet made that hole, I was never so good with my left hand, but it was worth it, I got away from the front.

The images he goes to bed with pack a punch. That’s why father sometimes has to get up at night. Then he’s drawn to the shed where the seed is stored in sacks. He’s not quite himself anymore, but strong as an ox, and the juices boil up inside him, and from his belly the rage floods his veins and climbs up the ladder of his nerves till it transforms his head into a seething cauldron. And if ever he’s a man, then now, and it’s war, whether these sacks know it or not, and he takes what he needs. Then his arteries suddenly contract, causing the blood to halt briefly before spurting again, and all the brown sap runs backwards from his brain through his veins, till everything that finds a way in also finds a way out, like the people chased into the house; and the human torches are red, they lick the windows from the inside, and when a torch escapes the house he chases it back in, the rooster crowing from the roof is red, the faces of his buddies forming a semicircle around the house are red, the flames that suddenly resemble women’s faces are red and want to entice him inside with their high voices, till all at once the women’s voices become a shrill note and he presses his hands against his temples so that it all stops, as if eels had crept inside his head and bitten each other, electric eels with their current now surging, and the blood flowing out of everyone’s body flows red, and the color of love is red, just like rage, and in the end only death is black, night becomes black after the fire dies down, the charred bodies the next day are black, but the teeth stay white, and what gushes out of him during the fire is white, in the end the hand he holds in front of his body and then cleanly pierces with a bullet is white, a wound that can be considered a war injury. And finally the pressure subsides, and he sees that he’s leaning against one of the sacks in the shed he’d thrust against, and how you can lose control of yourself. Then the shame comes and won’t let him go. The shame always comes afterwards, and stays. It stokes his rage till it boils over and the eels bite their way through his brain and his entire body trembles, and it’s a formula that applies to his entire life. While his brain is being shredded, lust and rage begin to mix inextricably, so that he doesn’t know why he senses lust when he is furious, and always has to slip into a rage to feel lust, and this secret feeling of himself as a man bleeds into everything else, and from then on rage and lust and shame form a calamitous chain reaction.

The only thing that helps him deal with the tremors is drinking. It does something to his blood, makes it thinner, circulating through his head and lungs and back through his body, making it easier for him to breath despite the pressure falling over him like blight, the worst thing that could possibly afflict a plant. When there’s blight on plants, everything has to be gassed, the entire harvest. And due to his skill at gassing things, father was able to get a different job and has worked on the farm since then. But he can’t get rid of the blight, and he also brought the tremors back with him, and that’s why he often comes late to supper, stopping here and there for a drink, schnapps or brandy, till it starts to boil over, till the mink come back from the dead and bite into their own fur, sporting whiskers electrically charged with booze. Then the purple cloud runs riot through his brain, then he’s filled with rage, and maybe his wife has started something while he works hard all day for the meager pay, maybe she’ll saddle him with a mailman’s child.

She still acts as if she had no idea that it already shows, but he sure can see it. Supper is waiting in the kitchen, the children are already in bed. He knows that she secretly despises him. How he would love to just bring her a couple pelts so she could see what he does, but it’s all earmarked for production, it all goes abroad, regardless of whether to fellow socialist or capitalist countries, and then she must consider him a weakling who can’t even bring his wife something home from work like everyone else does, sausage or wood or screws from the factory, and that is why he’s not a man in her eyes. So he’ll slap her around, putting her in her place before mounting her, and only later does he come to his senses and see his wife beneath him, staring at the ceiling. It doesn’t get any lonelier than this, but he doesn’t tell her that, just rolls to the side and gives her the covers. It’s important she knows he stands his ground like a man.

From Restwärme © Berlin Verlag, 2014

while I stroll along the frozen canal …
I slip on the technosphere …
a well, streams of data …
without extensions in the panopticon …
a promise, the glass domes …

Author: Peggy Neidel
Translator: Bradley Schmidt

while I stroll along the frozen canal
a hologram appears before me in the form of my fear
a spineless jellyfish
I spit the imitation into the air
the creature flies to the ground, pulsing
my shoes find the way

I slip on the technosphere
like a second skin, intoxicated
by the idea of being something
that I simultaneously have
I took the next combination
grasping with my arms reach for something
that looks like you

if there is no fate
who is actually ruining whom?

a well, streams of data
we are quite alone in private
we finger the water with sensors
blur the lines of the garden
petals fall
into the idyll

without extensions in the panopticon
masked by junk
they’ve got burnout and are waiting
for someone to patch them up

a promise, the glass domes
depending on the light’s angle
who takes its cues from what?
no-one sees it straight away
we’re walking in different directions

why did you come here?
surely you want to exchange memories
but you’re not interested in any answers
just this shadow
that your dream casts
that was the reason for your journey

you cling to the dream
in that building at the entrance of the hall
but a pane shatters

and then the city runs away from your dreams
I run until you’re just a speck.

From Peggy Neidel, weiß © poetenladen Verlag, 2013
Translation © Bradley Schmidt

Animals in Architecture (extracts)

Author: Sabine Scho
Translator: Bradley Schmidt

Of Abandoned Cages – Old Los Angeles Zoo

Keep out and keep your hands off – the area behind you is still waiting for everything that is past.
A Picnic on Valentine’s Day in the provisional paradise and don’t forget how people disappear, maybe in a bear enclosure with permanently installed grill. Stick your fingers through the mesh – is it cool? Are you still glowing, Jimbo? “It’s just the age when nothing fits.”
It’s shrinkin’ time again, kidz. “You wanna see a monkey,” or something else? On Sunset Boulevard, while Miss Desmond waits? Drive by Bates Motel or a wedding chapel.
The collar starched, barking “nothing but the dog in me”. Don’t worry, it’s not East L.A. gang, packs have long left this place, tables and benches can’t be budged, the séance is over, the second face a silent movie set – space for projections.
There’s always just one who’s crazy enough to make a fool of themselves and the one who drives along the unending, long streets till they suddenly end after all. No, not suddenly. All of you all already knew about the crash back at the start, and that they would get you, that someone would turn themselves in, that someone would die, you knew that too. But you didn’t want to go back to the zoo.
Don’t worry, they won’t lock you away. They know that you know very well that you have plans for a nice cage, far away, with spacious interior, a trail in front of the door for flight, you’ll get settled in, thank goodness.

© Sabine Scho

Bars don’t get mentioned, they live fully glazed and have a view of the pool, a porch swing in the garden, the sins of the city lined up straight in downtown’s cabinet, where JESUS SAVES as the redeemer of the primates – a “soul-saving business” in the steel framework.
They mounted the block letters from God’s school notebook on the roof on “the flip side of Paradise,” the sky marked with lines, made ready for the quota of faith of united disciples, United Artists, but don’t forget: “There’s always a better show at Loew’s State”: “Tarzan the Ape Man tops Trader Horn for thrills.”

© Sabine Scho

The “Alphabet of Gestures” hasn’t been spelled out yet, but the first words slip out: “Me Tarzan, you Jane!”
You don’t really know where they belong. “Won’t you follow me down to the Rose Parade?” To the Old Los Angeles Zoo, where sleeping beauty waits? Where a mockingbird sings East of Eden?
High dropout rates, teenage pregnancy, child abuse and neglect, suburbia’s puberty, public enemies, “cops grill a suspect” or perhaps a lost sheep at a BBQ in Watts.

Have you ever heard such fairytales? Are you afraid of the big bad wolf? Wasn’t it you who wanted a zoo without bars? Wasn’t it you who said: It’s true anyways, reality bites?
Cypress Hill, Highland Park, Los Angeles northeast, although these enclosures are no longer appropriate for L.A.’s beasts, they can be the grave for their next funeral feast.
“Good fences do make good neighbors, you know.” Or was it the other way around?
Respect the fence in the soft focus, close to the limit, caution loose gravel, otherwise you’ll lose your grip, will be responsible for damages that no insurance would pay, in the area designated for Lost Animals.

© Sabine Scho

Fleeing animals astound with cunning, don’t believe they’ll let themselves be lured, petted, tamed, that they’re missing something you have little of.
They’re not from around here, come to and from the country, remember the zoo area, their turf, from Plato’s break room you hear them panting, invisible creatures. Watchmen from Hell.

They sketch shadows that they don’t cast, search for the zodiac signs not far from the observatory. Stargazers, armed to the teeth, lost in space.
Their shibboleth, the growling of a bear in chains, the squeal of the tires that feast on gravel, a red mustang that always keeps on track.

Lascaux is located in L.A., you just have to get out to understand that, and that the ciphers in the abandoned caves mean something.
Guess what? Mr. Psycho bombed this place.

© Sabine Scho

Cat Houses in front of the Church

First scratch with your paw, making the sign of the cross, then enter the smoky cave. Through the colored panes you will be illuminated by the glistening light of the deity. The divine attempt to reach Ground Control? You’d better not mess with Major Tom.

Cats stroll in the House of God like it’s my bird brain. And God licks his whiskers behind the retable, some kind of richly ornamented Spanish wall. Mouse pickers or pleasant company for Jerome in his Study? Cunning, cleaning addicts, sweet-toothed and lazy, Satan himself, the heretics’ cat has nine lives. Three times a black cat. Get thee behind me, evil spirit.

That’s not to say that completely different animals can’t live here. Corn snakes or owls as the sub-tenants of the less-domesticated kitties, tormented by original sin, nervously drawing back their paws on hot tin roofs.

The separation from God requires a mediator, but nobody knows how animals got into Paradise in the first place. Starting with the snake, where did that come from?
Their eyes, coin slots for four-legged bandits, black cats, the first gambling creatures of the Caille brothers.

They skillfully take the rats, household waste, and cockroaches out of churches, stables, and sheds before they have a go at the fledglings in the trees. The last thing most of them see is the inside of a burlap sack, when their hisses are soaked up by the canals of Venice. Their ancestors may have been saber-toothed tigers with teeth longer than their tails.

What are the cats called? Do they really have three names? One for domestic use, one for their majestic prowling, and one that is only known to each cat, dozed off on top of cigarette butts, exhausted next to the hydrants, not on Mohammed’s sleeve that the Prophet cut off in order to not rouse his house cat before leaving it to pray?
A little beast of prey for which canned food was invented, yet the can-opener was invented in its own right, because everything we feed then willingly assumes goodness and grace?

© Sabine Scho

From Sabine Scho, Tiere in Architektur © kookbooks, 2013
Translation © Bradley Schmidt

Five poems from “Dickicht mit Reden und Augen”

Author: Steffen Popp
Translator: Bradley Schmidt

Stepping out of the concrete, entirely rabbit fur.
Touching the rough glove, turning it inside out.
Moving something like pebbles slowly in your mouth.The head, the buried cloud form.
The heart, the doubled, enormous sack form.Concrete was thinking, a school
massive. A bell’s inside enveloped in sleep. Sleep
however, was another.

With milky white feet, eyes rolled back like
with conjunctivitis, under down.

We lay, I believe, in both
and sometimes in both at once.

Did I ever meet you, besides in sleep, hours before the crack of dawn
that we, crazy for depth, kissed from stones?
The heart was these stones, you say.
Still, and against them: I don’t think so.

Collection points for secondary raw materials were primal
arcane locations, hidden terminals like black markets, the Party
here quantity counted, weight, here, close to waste, what counted
was the price. Capitalism in the fall of the system’s folds

economy trading in newspapers, washed bottles.
People dragged rags, cable, waste oil for small change
despite all insignificance tangible, free of ideology: profit.
For what dropped out of the first cycle into the second

nothing could not be utilized, long before ecology.
Stone-faced like index fossil handlers adjusted the scales
– we were a collecting team, you cable, I glass, and

a balloon team: you were saving for helium, I for sand
you for silk and ropes, I for pressure compensation, time.
None of that was to be had. So we grew rich.

The We reappeared again and again, a paper tiger
no one wanted to pet. Our tiger consisted of
two pronouns (you, I) and a miniature rat,
what you called a guinea pig, on your hand

gnawed cross-eyed on kohlrabi. A representative
of the myriad tired, crippled pets in their owners’ tow
making the area uncertain – for the eyes.
Sure, we despised art. But that was no reason

to fatten up this squalor, if only to hold a mirror to ourselves.
Between being caressed and trampled dozens croaked
each month, and were buried, tossed into  dumpsters

with their cardboard homes, on the way to the next
furry, feathered, scaled short-term companion. The same
time would, we sensed, also dispose of us, and it did.

The moldy retainer on the breaker box
almost a bridge to life. Behind the appliance shed
we later found teeth with crowns, no idea
how they got there, to whom they belonged.

Cat’s teeth too, jawbones of rabbits –
passion of an disturbed janitor, apparently
a teeth fetishist in our midst. But there
I only saw average heads with hair and glasses

there I only saw us, alarmingly enough. At night
the apartment buildings were sets of teeth, black
with a few gaps illuminated till morning: a hobby lab

a forgotten kitchen light and the desk lamp
you slept in front of, under futuristic headphones
Russian III or hits ripped off from America.

Stepping out of the concrete, entirely rabbit fur.
Moving something like pebbles slowly in your mouth.

Grasping the material, a groping in foam
that coagulates, iridescently coating the furry body.
Kneading the material, dough
skin of a living creature.

Feeling the ground, sealed
the heart above. Below, buried in clouds
the head, its growth against time
metaphysical as stone.

Unlimited headspace, sky, in cone form.
Unlimited stone, in ore form.
Location of these motions that have long determined
reading the segments of the buildings, ancient frieze.

Finding the rough glove on the edge of the complex.
Touching the rough glove, turning it inside out.

From Dickicht mit Augen und Reden by Steffen Popp © kookbooks, 2013
Translations: © Bradley Schmidt 2013

How Hunter Mayhem Traveled to Uruguay

Author: Francis Nenik
Translator: Bradley Schmidt

Hunter Mayhem was Uruguay.
He stood like the shadow of an arc lamp in his kitchen, looked out of the window and let his words pour from the pane onto the windowsill.
“Good Lord, Hunter,” said Hunter Mayhem to himself, “you can’t travel to Uruguay. You don’t even go out to get the mail from the mailbox.”
The mailbox, twelve feet below the puddle of words at his feet, overflowing. A big pile of paper on the street. People were digging through it or jumping in, children ripped up what they could get their hands on. The mailwoman gave them fodder, day after day.
“Uruguay,” said Hunter Mayhem, “river of painted birds, of snails, of the Uruland, the food-bringers.”
It was 7:12. In the Republic to the East of the Uruguay it was just becoming light. But here the sun above the roof was already at its zenith, paving the street with its beams and papering light paths above the ruffled skulls.
“Well then,” said Hunter Mayhem, taking a deep breath and exhaling a little less deeply, “the river is ready to be waded through.” And took a step forward, and there was the wall.
His shin turned blue under the radiator.
“I remember the splendid fouls during the World Cup ’86 against the kickers from Scotland,” said Hunter Mayhem, “Batista, football god, grim reaper, red card after fifty-six seconds.”
The shin flourished like the turf in the Nezahualcóyotl stadium.
“All of Montevideo must be full of dangerous sliding tackles,” thought Hunter Mayhem and cast a yearning glance down at the street.
The mailwoman brought new letters.
“Hips like a Uruguayan cow,” judged Hunter Mayhem and the statistics hung next to his head.

3.8 cattle per person
59.9 % of land area used for cattle farming
82.4 % including dairy farming

Hunter Mayhem drank coffee.
It was hot and everything sweated and was crooked. The statistics. The clocks. José Batista on the wall. Hunter Mayhem behind the windowpane.
But he had started it. This morning when he awoke in his kitchen. Accordingly it was up to him to put an end to the situation.
But what actually was the situation? And what was it outside his kitchen, outside his mailbox? And where did the door behind him actually lead? Uruguay?
“I could turn around and take a look,” said Hunter Mayhem, “but I’m afraid that it’s not Uruguay behind the door. Perhaps it’s Columbia. Or Panama.”
“Why don’t you just look through the keyhole?” said José Batista. “Gordon Strachan was also a red-head when I fouled him.”
“There’s a key in the keyhole,” said Hunter Mayhem, “I could gouge out an eye. Or two.”
“Take it out!” commanded José Batista.
“I don’t know,” said Hunter Mayhem, “all sorts of things could come sloshing through a keyhole like that. I mean, if it’s not Uruguay.”
“What does that mean?” asked José Batista.
“The key to success is simultaneously the key against the catastrophe,” said Hunter Mayhem, “and by now Gordon Strachan has ash-blond hair.”
José Batista shook his head and his hair fell down into the dirty dishes. Now he was completely bald.
Hunter Mayhem scratched himself. He was still standing crooked in the kitchen and sweating, while beneath him the people scrapped for his bills.
“They don’t know anything about Uruguay,” he said to the windowpane. “For them Uruguay is just a word. If it is one at all.”
“And what is it for you?” asked the windowpane.
“For me it is the be-all and the end-all,” said Hunter Mayhem, “and the in-between even more so.”
“I’m the in-between,” said the windowpane.
“Oh,” said Hunter Mayhem, “then you’re the one who reminds me of my mother.”
“I didn’t know you had a mother,” said the windowpane.
“And what a mother I have,” said Hunter Mayhem, “she always said: why aren’t you like Joseph, who loves his homeland? Or like Eudipius, who worships his mother? Why Uruguay, Hunter, why?”
“And what did you answer?” asked the windowpane.
“I don’t know,” said Hunter Mayhem, “I don’t have any memory.”
“Glass,” said the windowpane, “glass is memory. Why don’t you reflect yourself in me?”
“I don’t know,” said Hunter, “maybe you’re right, maybe I don’t have a mother at all.”
“Reflect!” cried the windowpane.
“I could have said it myself,” said Hunter Mayhem, “then Uruguay would be my homeland. And my mother as well.”
“Mirror, mirror on the wall, Batista’s hair’s not there at all?”
“No, it’s in the sink,” said Hunter Mayhem, “the statistics don’t lie.”
“And why are you wearing papal vestments?” asked the windowpane.
“He was there,” said Hunter Mayhem, “from March 31 to April 1, ’87, no joke.”
“I know,” said the windowpane, “but you’re sweating.”
“Second visit,” said Hunter Mayhem, “all of Montevideo was full of warm words.”
“What is that supposed to mean?” asked the windowpane.
“If Uruguay is my homeland and also my mother, then the question why wasn’t a complaint,” said Hunter Mayhem, “then it was a secret token of love, a great desire of the Uruguayan soul, the call to finally come to her and crawl into the body from which I was to be born.”
“But the statistics…!” cried the windowpane.
But it was already too late.
Hunter Mayhem had put his head through the glass.
The people on the street stopped.
Hunter Mayhem stepped through the window, jangled onto the sill.
The words stuck to the bottoms of his shoes.
He bent forward, and pushed off of the windowsill just before falling.
Women screamed, children laughed, men scratched their bald heads.
Hunter Mayhem made a sliding tackle through the air, down to the mailbox, smashing it with outstretched legs.
No card.
In the west the sun drowned itself in the Uruguay River.

Original © Francis Nenik
Translation © Bradley Schmidt

untitled poem

Author: Ulrike Almut Sandig
Translator: Bradley Schmidt


I’ve heard it said there is a place
for all that’s disappeared,

like different sorts of apples
the clowns and gods, among them

even that Good God of Manhattan,
Karl Marx Stadt, Constantinople,

Banaras and Bombay, the names
of too many coal-mined ghost villages

can be found, I’ve heard it said,
in the middle of the white fir forest

that swallows every sound wave.
that place, I’ve heard it said,
can’t be found on any real map.


Original from Ulrike Almut Sandig, Dickicht © Schöffling & Co. Verlagsbuchhandlung GmbH, Frankfurt am Main 2011
Translation: © Bradley Schmidt 2012

as if
lighting the way home

Author: Lutz Seiler
Translator: Bradley Schmidt


as if

sinking in, whispering:
you still broadcast from the old wires
between the stations.
you shuffle through conversations

in the leaves, through the voices
rustling, heard
from outside, passing by: so
you pause. the night

begins at the house, hold
your tongue, the silence
in the eyes. as if

you had carefully
written up everything. as if
you had already died


lighting the way home

clear evenings while walking.
the steps, on the gravel,
on your feet once again
the mechanics of the stones

the pond is called iris lake.
the street: rail road.
the moonsighted algae are asleep
& lamps are
grasped by ivy.

you still do not
know that you exist, yet know
what happens, into the brittle darkness
the house empties


Originals from Lutz Seiler, im felderlatein © Suhrkamp Verlag Berlin 2010
Translations © Bradley Schmidt


Author: Judith Zander
Translator: Bradley Schmidt


albeit in the small hours behind sailor hill
the landscape interpreted and read
in this area bar code
of the ditches silver multipliers casual
ancestors of low voltage the livestock
comme il faut like
with glooming landscapes pre-artist colonial as
ever the choice
between two heavenly products one
halo humble cumili
a further horizon



half past three minus five
degrees my hair is a
city grass windswept I
am in the dregs
of the night are the trams non-
existent dragons
on the piles
of eyes crystals
form in the head
virtiginous sighs like
with ice when it secretly shifts


Originals from Judith Zander, oder tau
© Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag GmbH, München 2011
Translations © Bradley Schmidt

The Beating Heart of the Collection

Author: Clemens J. Setz
Translator: Bradley Schmidt


– And finally, back there is his late work, said the young man and gestured towards a long bookcase full of dark, partially dilapidated books. The entire late Setz. The Waiting Lines Cycle. Grandchildren and Asteroids. Everything from his Post-Sea Period. We only have the novels from his Pre-Sea Period; most of the other texts from that phase have been lost. But we do have several rare copies of his out-of-print children’s book. Meow, the Little Funeral Knell.
– Knell, I see.
The woman following him spoke very slowly and without inflection, as if she had difficulty with pronunciation. She wore a short skirt and sneakers that looked like small fluffed-up animals and clashed with her elegant leather jacket. In her hand she held a white pen, and now and then she let it slide through her fingers. When they went past a large metal cabinet she left it on top and paid it no more mind.
– And here we have our most revered treasure, said the young man and pretended to spit in his hands like a craftsman. Voilá, the card catalog.
– What did you call it?, asked the woman.
– No, I just said “voilá”. It means something like “here” or “there you go.” A low-key version of Dadada-Da-da-Da!
The woman laughed uncertainly, like a child who hadn’t understood a grownup joke, and gazed at the ground. There were her sneakers, colorful and large. She positioned them as if she was doing a snow plow, and rocked back and forth.
– Oh, I thought maybe you had given the cabinet a name, she said and looked up to him with a foolish expression on her face.
The young man asked himself – for the third time this afternoon – if she wasn’t drunk or under the influence of some sort of substance. He wiped the sweat off his forehead with his sleeve – the tour through the archive had already gone on a half hour – and motioned for the woman to follow him to the next room. There was a table, and a large coffee machine on it. A few whole coffee beans were rolling around on the floor.
– Since you’re probably the last visitor, I would like to invite you to a cup of coffee, what do you say?
– I’d love to, said the woman. The dispersal of the collection … is it irreversible then?
– Irr … Well, I would say it is definitive. The collection was a crazy idea from the beginning, but at least I’ve received validation from very many people that I’ve done as good a job as was possible in these circumstances. That’s some comfort.
– And where are all of these things headed?
– Well, thank God it’s not like it’s all going to be burned –
At these words the woman shuddered and accidentally crushed her still-empty plastic coffee cup. The young man gently removed it from her hand, threw it away and gave her a new one.
– Of course everything will be preserved, he said. Merely in a different place and without me as caretaker, but rather as part of a larger library, a private collection.
– Who? the woman asked.
– That … I don’t know if I’m allowed to say, I mean … Of course it’s not a secret or anything, but …
– It’s okay, she said.
– A private collector. That’s all I can say.
– Okay.
The young man opened a white coffee filter with his fingertips, folded it into a neat, wide beak and planted it in the sewing machine head of the coffeemaker. Then he poured in water from a bottle and some ground coffee.
– Are you disappointed about it? the woman asked.
– Well, you know …
The man flipped the switch. The coffee machine awoke from its sleep, huffing and purring. Judging from the layer of dust, it must have rested for quite a long time. A solitary brown drop came out of its little metallic snout and exploded on the table’s bare surface. A feverish glow filled the switch, the engraved word POWER sputtered and flickered unsteadily. Then it suddenly went dark.
– What’s gone wrong now, said the young man and tapped the dead switch with his index finger.
He moved it back and forth. Nothing happened.
– Sorry, he said to the machine.
– It’s okay, said the woman. Perfect timing, right?
The man took a deep breath and turned around to face her.
– Somehow the timing is always perfect, he murmured, don’t you think?
– Pardon?
– Oh, never mind. Besides, this coffeemaker has never worked properly, he said, shaking his head. Well, then we’ll just go back …
He walked ahead. She followed him. His shoes made a smacking noise as he walked, while hers were completely silent.

Back in the so-called reception room, which was called that for the simple reason that it was the first room that a visitor entered, the young man sat down shortly behind his desk (which for obvious reasons was called the reception desk) and dug in a large drawer. He had almost forgotten it. He looked at the clock. Really, that late already. The woman watched him work, then she got bored, and she looked out the window.
– Has that high rise been there very long? she asked.
The man finished rustling, then looked up, his hand still in the drawer, and he said:
– No, it’s only been there for a little while. This darned concrete block. These miserable high rises …
The woman stepped closer to the window and rested her hands on the dusty sill. The fabric of her skirt stretched over her behind. A single horizontal crease remained, like a closed eyelid. The young man pulled his lip under his front teeth and breathed in and out.
– I like high rises, said the woman. You always feel that just anything could be behind them. Desert. Seas. Mounted armies. Just things that could come closer, unnoticed while you’re only looking at the building.
– It mainly consumes light, said the young man. On certain days the sun spends the whole day behind this ugly oscolisk. Um, the obelisk. Or, what is it … the obel …
He turned his head to the side, pensively blinking his eyes. But the more he quietly repeated the word to himself, the more futile it became. He looked over to the woman who in the meantime had placed a hand on the windowpane, a gesture reminiscent of yearning.
Finally he found what he had been looking for in the drawer. A doorknob, golden white and heavy, sat under a stack of stationery. He always kept it there but had to look for it every time because it moved around on its own and hid underneath all sorts of meaningless stuff when the drawer was closed. He took it and put it in his pocket.
When he stood up, the woman turned towards him. He expected her to say goodbye to him now. Despite his best intentions, the archive didn’t have any more to offer. The sunlight lay in the room in fan-shaped stripes.
– Thank you for the tour, said the woman.
The young man nodded, relieved.
– Now I really have the sense, she continued, that I know my way around here a little bit. Thanks. I’ll be fine on my own.
She walked past him into the next room where a pile of old magazines and a few dilapidated first editions were stored, and stood between the metal shelves, both hands on her hips as if she expected a hint soon to indicate which direction she should go.
The young man followed her. In his mind he was already composing an extremely polite statement to alert the woman to the opening hours, which had already been exceeded by some minutes. As he came closer he noticed that the muscles on her back were moving. She wore very tight clothing, which he had already noticed during their introductions. Confused, he stared at her shoulder blades.
– I … he began.
She ignored him. She grabbed one of the books and leafed through it. The cover showed a man with glasses and three-day beard reading by an old-fashioned library lamp a passage from his newest book. And although it was a black and white photo, it was clear that book was exactly the one that the woman held in her hand. A strange infinite loop like the dizzying feedback spirals of reciprocal camera photos.
Smiling, the woman returned the book.
– And you did this all by yourself, she said.
She pronounced the last word so slowly that the young man initially didn’t think he was being addressed.
– Well, no, he said. Of course not. No one can do this by themselves. It takes people who provide the space and permission to sort through the unbelievable amount of paper that this person covered in writing, and then of course systematically sift through it and –
He halted because the woman had become engrossed in another book. Judging from her lip movements he could tell that she was reading.
– But at least I’m the one who is always here, he said. Or was, depending. But you know…
With a sweeping gesture he lifted his forearm and looked at his watch in the hope that the woman would notice it. But she wasn’t going to be disturbed. Her lips were spelling out a line. Her face displayed a children’s smile.
– Hee-hee, she said. Everything ephemeral is merely an allegory. Did he write that?
– I’m afraid not, said the young man and leaned over to see which book the woman had taken.
– But there’s more, she said. Haltingly and following the line with her index finger, she slowly read aloud: Everything transient is merely an allegory. But for what? Merely for more transience. Haha …
Her voice had become increasingly quiet. She can’t even read right, thought the young man and felt himself becoming hot. To calm himself he reached into his pants pocket and wrapped his hand around the doorknob. The cool metal in his hand gave him some courage, and he said:
– Okay, well … unfortunately we’re closing now, I’m sorry …
The woman looked up at him. The reading index finger remained in the middle of the page.
– Too bad you didn’t come earlier, he said. I mean, too bad because this is the last day … but I assume that all the notebooks and papers will soon be accessible to the public. I’m quite sure, in fact. As I said, the private collector has …
The woman folded her arms across her chest although her finger was still in the book. The young man gazed apologetically at the ceiling and shrugged his shoulders.
– I’ve shown you everything, he said. But unfortunately …
He gestured vaguely in a circle as if to say: the conditions, the adverse conditions. The woman removed her finger from the book, the wound in the white pages healed immediately, and she placed the work back on the shelf. Because there were no other books on one side it fell over immediately.
– Of course not, she said.
– What?
– Of course not, she repeated, not everything.
The young man looked as blank as possible but he couldn’t handle her gaze. Her look made his expression melt and he began to cry.
– I, I …, he sobbed and held his hand in front of his face. It smelt pleasantly of metal from the door knob. It’s just … for his own …
The woman had moved very close to him. She squeezed his quaking chin between two fingers. He tried to nod but couldn’t because she held on tightly.

He scrunched the damp tissue and put it in his pocket. He thought about all the days that he had spent here alone, the solitary yoga exercises on the reception desk that made the time pass more quickly.
He and the woman then went through the room where the coffee machine vegetated away. Several tools were hung on the walls: screwdrivers, hammers, wire spools, and saw blades in various sizes, like the bizarre silverware of an alien civilization. At the end of the room was a tall, unmarked door that could have been mistaken for merely painted on the wall. The man removed the door knob from his pocket and screwed it onto a small, rectangular piece of metal that protruded from a hole in the door. He carefully turned the knob, a clicking like the breaking of a wishbone could be heard, and a shadowy room lay before him. The odor of all things human hit him, and he breathed through his mouth.
– Mr. Setz? he called in a very quiet voice.
In the partial darkness a figure stirred in a large, yellow hospital bed that stood beneath a round window mortared in with white bricks. In one corner of the room, where otherwise a cross might hang, there was a Chinese lantern wearing a laughing face and filled with a melancholy light from a very weak light bulb. Beyond that, the room was filled with mostly broken or bent umbrellas. In one corner a little fountain babbled away. It was shaped like a stretch of beach with tiny little changing rooms and an even tinier sunset on the finger-broad horizon.
– Mr. Setz, the young man repeated. I just wanted to say that we’re closing now.
A grunt could be heard, and a hand holding a fountain pen rose from the bed, but immediately fell back onto the soft, springy mattress.
– Mahhhh, said the figure very quietly.
It was the voice of a very old man. The bed squeaked. The young man felt his heart beating.
– I’d better turn off the sea then too, Mr. Setz, he said with a slight tremor in his voice and took a careful step into the room towards the fountain.
– No, let him have the sea, said the woman. Leave it on.
And she laid a hand on his shoulder from behind.
– Mahhhh, confirmed the figure in the bed.

They went back after the door had been closed, the key turned twice and the sweaty knob removed. The woman floated along in her sneakers, not brushing against anything, and didn’t otherwise make a sound. The young man kept on thinking of the weathered old man’s gaze he had encountered in the darkness. The private collector will, he said again and again to himself. The private collector really will. The unfinished sentence gave him some comfort.
– Did he say anything? the woman asked.
The man cleared his throat for a while, even though there was nothing to clear.
– Well, he said, he sat up briefly, I believe, and felt for his glasses. I’m sure he thought I was the letter carrier.
– The letter carrier?
And he beamed, the young man said somewhat wistfully. With his whole face. He loves it when he gets mail, you should know.
They walked silently next to one another and came to the reception desk where a small moving box stood. An agenda open to the middle of the year protruded from a trash can. The drawer still grinningly presented its contents. When they had arrived at the front door, the woman turned around, left him behind and went back towards the other room. She took off her leather jacket and draped it over her arm. She wore a bright t-shirt bearing a picture of a few palm trees on a beach.
– He’ll probably notice soon that he’s not getting any mail anymore, said the man. He’s not stupid in that respect.
– Lock up well, said the woman. I’ll take care of the rest.
Her delicate hand wandered to a light switch and remained there until the young man had opened the door, left the archive and locked it from outside. A quiet plastic clicking sound could be heard, and then the three rooms, the surroundings and the large monolithic office building at the end of the street lay in complete darkness.


From Die Liebe zur Zeit des Mahlstädter Kindes by Clemens Setz,
© Suhrkamp Verlag, 2011.
Translation © Bradley Schmidt