Five sonnets

Author: Konstantin Arnold
Translator: Catherine Hales

Evening of blue city dwellers in Berlin. Underground train

1 / 15

for Almut, Janka, Luise, Mara and Norbert

Windows Benn, untouched and unregarded.
The soft showers. Early blossom. Dying
like far-off happiness. Shadows and Great Flood
as though dumb in sealed caves, the bi-

nary. In duning, coming, going, slide
our walls, are as thin as Loerke’s hide,
blended, unravelled after blue tunes.
Through all the Spring comes the stranger, womaning,

hooked. A redness swarms up. Blood rises. House-walls
greyly swollen like strangled people gaze on
bland blooming, let in the moistness of others!

Who, if I wept, Wolfenstein, would it bother.
The stocking on the stretcher is there. But where it ends
people stand where eyes are narrowed, stonewalling.



People! Where eyes are narrowed, stonewalling,
a sentence takes a dump like beaver shit:
the I takes an early shower in political-hist-
orical terms, the rustic must go! If he called

fraud, hand the villagers an epic cure
and leave the townies whining and all a-quiver
and pull the sticky stuff off your eyelid
thus putting the books of the orphans of Chur

into good shape no cooking of books or weaving of box
tree for you. Commit yourself to nothing!
we’d think communicators had botched something there.

Sticking your finger in the socket these days
could be a decorative act. Skimming reactions I quickly praise
the monkey orchid. The grass is crassly frazzled.



The grass is crassly frazzled. Swan! Playboy!
Every sponge wipes swanning ahead of her across
the board even in Parliament the mindless chatter stops
even the editor cleanses beforehand her toyboy

the aforesaid playboy meanwhile playing Gameboy
board wipers m+f devouring falafel with everything
the parliamentarians (m) writing a ghazal in their minds
the parliamentarians (f) murmuring Senna Hoy!

The interval has completely corralled them all
even laying hens, according to legend
she has, none other than Mr. Rockstroh

the long interval, got rid of all the destitute people
he chews around on a giraffe like a flea
would do, were it grown greatly and tenderly lonely.


Pianofourte Sonnet

Who’s coralled greatly and tenderly? The rhyming couplet.
I much prefer the world lost to me full of giraffes: a lot
of embellishment, bee slime by the bucketload.
Thus spake Zeck in lubricious greed monkeys.

A Steigenberger, a hotel, even making a chain
Of them. The per se opposite of turning to good use: the sim-
ilarity of a lamed seed bucket to a limping skeleton.
For a stuttering sonnet: make weaponless sonnets!

Hidden in every Berlin Window: bestiaries
Sir! No, Sir! Munich is no beast! I demand fixed prices
For hamburgers and our favourite frankfurters

On this Zeil. Can you feel the desire for the best arias
For 1000 euros 1000 Belgians are freed from rivers
And streams in your mind’s banger-desert. Are all ice-creams E-flats?


Pipsqueak Sonnet

Freed from rivers and streams. Are all ice creams E-flats?
Well, that’s really nice. If you procure something for me
Does that mean I’m on the game? Chocolate ice cream yeah (Elise)
Is worth procuring: while oil … Not that

I’ve got anything against oil as such, it’s just that a lot
Of people are made orphans by the squabbling over blackpastored wetness
over oils. On that subject an announcement by the generals: put your foot on the gas!
Pastors change channels as quietly as mouse-snouts on the remote.

I’d dig around for dino-bones outside the small house in Buckow.
I’d fly like the wind and rhyme like a child in summer.
I’d get into the sack with all available sonnet muses.

I’d set to with the most terrible creatures in the rock wall at Duino:
Without cream or pincers; Battle of the Somme
(at the cold buffet). I’m afraid they only exist now in sonnet museums.

From Konstantin Ames, sTiL.e(ins) Art und Weltwaisen © rougbooks, 2012

freeze frame

Author: Hendrik Jackson
Translator: Catherine Hales

freeze frame


draught up our sleeves from the side wind, tiredness suppressing
a few half words, we moved into the colder frost-air by the rear frontage
of a distant building, a couple among the houses, at night
the tree (landing net) through which winds flowed off crackling –

slow spotlights silence disembodied steps, then movements
from a conventional plot (interim fade-ins). in her soft
white coat the ice princess flew overhead, ghosts passing through
the rows of seats, of houses (your hand lying lifeless in mine)


jingling of glassy icicles, the cold glass in front of the window display, a few
crystals (housing estate). for a moment there was a pure nothingness
the horizon turning wide (eyelids as though cut away) –
motionless layers of air, you were dreaming: this dull dull afternoon

a hairline crack – smiling, loudspeakers rattling in the ice tent
the steady humming of the transformer, as we swarmed out singly:
briefly disquiet, flying shadows over indifferent gratings
(old advertising posters) and away. darkness trickled through a hole in the sky


the door swung open: snow was falling (sleeping) in dense
flakes – and gusted up, then something half forgotten began
thoughts passing effortlessly – two people were standing unnoticed
as we did back then, attentive to an arm (fur)

at a turning, astounded, in a conversation about affection
my bicycle, frame and handlebar, cables and spokes
turning white, as though sprinkled with coconut (the heavy coats)
fine, doubting promises, your hair tied back



these paths: starting at zero, magnificent. unbroken
blanket of new snow (silence) the light reflected like crazy
and footsteps footsteps. victory – decided, touch
unavoidable. not until the sun was really low did you

utter words again, showed reactions I hadn’t reckoned with, albedo
you said, your profile in the greyish yellow colouring of the light, hearing
straining into the icy landscape, whirling (air lanes) snow dust (glass spheres)
where the circle closed we stopped, emptiness enclosed us


fallstreaks, flame-coloured schlieren (nosebleeds, pressure on the eardrum)
in the sky. the reflection rising to a head, flickering
(flare) adjustment phenomena image disturbance, then –
lines of flight eradicated. each step in tow tensely awake

in the stream of the underground, tiled white the floor slight vibration
evil stench and stiff knee, of course: nude pictures, depressing stillness
seething mass (safely in trust) face (flat hissing) the way it turns
aside, side-on – contours, blurred. wires posts tunnels


may, ten in the morning. the day building up to a heat
that spreads out. writing about the redstart or about
the greenfinch, like frederick II, the ornithologist. his falcon,
it’s true, died (casual occurrences). from the cellar: humming of bees

immortal in weather continuing fine (under the wing of the older ones)
full of nearness – the day – was far away, calm on the bed, copied from
the salamander, with eyes (gummed closed). sun strained sun
extracted from honey. (blurred) land beneath me, threaded with dreams

From Dunkelströme © kookbooks 2006

Periodic Song (excerpt)

Author: Sylvia Geist
Translator: Catherine Hales


not discovered
but foretold somehow (de humore acido…) how solitary
the meerschaum

shatters. vapour!
letterpress metal sacrificed melting (bending) down skimming the
puddle left

in water
hardness something else. leaving us with the crystalline
beauty of

a word
its syllables mining meaning making it matter. crazily
sparking chippings


her hundred-year-laugh
when she read the day’s reports from my
hand. my yellow sweat. autumn whispering

in the
courtyard and those minus multiplications giving me hell
why plus? at night incremental growth

hurting the
bones want to show she laughed. that’s why.
I still believed in father’s wrath

and MGM
talking bushes endlessly burning without smoke but not
her constantly saying it’s happening now


for ever.
for ever the horror by day the night-time
years of children the growing pains

in autumn
the minus of bushes bearing fruit for ever
and the calorific value of the

bones of
dried fruit consumed in sweetness and meal – all
that’s swallowed completely for ever too

by the
courtyard and the wrath-hand’s laughter and this cinnabar’s
sweating – its giving up – its red.


Originals © Sylvia Geist
Translations © Catherine Hales

I keep your secrets very close
nothing has happened something’s taken place
there’d be the possibility of a mix-up at any time

Author: Katharina Schultens
Translator: Catherine Hales


I don’t understand his hand’s bone structures
any more. there must be a cavity in there
where the tube goes in – an opening to the inside
of his gestures. all calculation. honey
dripping in from the spoon, & light.

lips pursed – not so bad. I’d love
to reach out my hand to him – still.
searching for intubations into the
conversation: change of scene
he waves with his white hand

along the aisles to the freezer
snow-covered forest soft humming
from behind the glass I’m sure all the bees
that have vanished are buzzing in that cavity
the warm transformer box their hive


I keep your secrets very close

Let me tell: I’m a spun yarn & you can take
a syllable away at any time or hang one on me
such as guilt. then I’m suddenly an english shrubbery
on a plain in a dream in which I can rustle
& whisper. intensively when the light shines through

red in branches: small apertures – now anyone
can hang up their secrets – I don’t care
how big or how banal. in any case they have
various filing options here in this structure.
their secrets are mostly small & white.

take on colour slowly & fix themselves to me
& get infected – until at some point everything falls
away. dispersion. seed. around me a circle
of leaves & a herd of small beasts. standing
upright pointed & remasculined –

lances without knights attached – I spin
around – my dress rustles – I whisper oh
you know – perhaps I’m the inside
of the filing cabinet when it closes.


nothing has happened something’s taken place

the pictures fanned out slats fingers
fitting singly in the gaps it’s a separation
of caresses as though you were letting down
a blind highly-controlled & cold. spread
this last time – light metal almost edges
skin this potential the rotation I didn’t say

anything. I’ve only divided something
into sections that were already there
with a movement that happened all
by itself seductively appropriate
to fit the available space – the image
disperses & deflects my eyes:

I turn my head here comes the refrain
with your hand taking turning & changing
nothing at all. just changing lane. slats
screwed in something momentous happening
just by-the-by as usual leaving behind the joints
in the structure & my discipline – it alters things –


there’d be the possibility of a mix-up at any time

if we were to hold the conditionals up to the light:
there’d be veins in them fine cracks
an epidermis patterned into stars
would be positioned over the ankles:

the conditionals
are not just any old ones but sinewy
scarred in places on the inside especially where
they begin. they’re busy making syntheses
without approval.

the conditionals
– and here’s the problem – take on lots
in parallel. in their surfaces courses
no lines aiming for a point instead
– cuts without consequences.

but you couldn’t have foreseen
how tenderly they’d strangle you.
they really didn’t mean
it. they’re still so little.


Originals © Katharina Schultens
Translations © Catherine Hales

january miniature

Author: Birgit Kreipe
Translator: Catherine Hales

i hung over the sea on a blue thorn,
the sky that is, waiting for a moment
of beauty, of sense, the absolute poem
would please you. my shadows gobbled
fishes. elements raged, i saw grey rows
of teeth made out hotels. the rage of the waves
failed on the shore. the land pulled its collar
tighter. saw sou’westers, tons of freshly-oiled
flesh wobbling on wavecrests, from far off
the horizon, where ships were stuck on, across
the sea made out this: the last fish would have slices
of lemon in its mouth. the dunes would eat
the last humans the last poem would be
on the menu the last girls, incorruptible and legitimised
by beauty, would lie in ruins for ever, teeth
chattering in the wind and shine through centuries.
the thorn would grow larger the last poem would
have the form of waves then everything would start
from the beginning again and in the next world
this here would be a bathing resort again



january miniature

sky lense, light of the dead
in the ancient green of pine shadows
grave goods reigning
glittering, empty bottles loyal as gold
bronze crosses, a few pine needles

stones, hunchbacked, schlepping themselves
from grave to grave

the white freezing of birches
the formula is tender, almost light,

the dead lilies of january
snow witches, do not wilt


Originals © Birgit Kreipe
Translations © Catherine Hales

German Ocean
View Across the City

Author: Adrian Kasnitz
Translator: Catherine Hales

German Ocean

Old maritime maps on the walls and spiders’ webs so fine.
You touch the house all over.
The holidays, laugh the children and demand ice cream
until our ears hurt, now it doesn’t matter
as much as on days in the city.
In the evening we listen. The wind is in charge here.



View Across the City

There are the clouds, acid-green
and cursed. An aircraft
with unidentifiable destination, a vapour trail
and horror, if you think about it.
the points, towers and turrets
the languid flight path of a falcon.
Pigeons and blind people are more
than the city fathers care for.
A little further on concrete
steel and glass attracting smears. The whole
realm of unconnected ideas
as though it were a rage against reality.
everything is smaller than ants, teeming.
The dust of our wishes is hidden
under the bed and we draw back from
any effort to bring it out.


Originals © Adrian Kasnitz
Translations © Catherine Hales

repeated test series …

Author: Daniela Seel
Translator: Catherine Hales

repeated test series experiments on yourself with raw milk products or
cosmetic scents the eczematous areas grow to the size of handballs

marram grass imitation wood bed showroom all
somehow well-lit from all sides you were talking about community

of acquired goods and the future green of a development boundary post-
materialism they call it in the clinical way of clinical customers or

modern performance a fierce burning this urging
to the heart of the matter defying imagination this first person plural

years ahead your little prophesies: paradises and havens constantly
renounced unfulfillable fitting in this wickerwork wishing

the way ankles may whisper: floppity floppity! rounding in rooms the sound
of the hounds under the blue arching down to the ground layer for layer

particles shifting to shadowy shops for the calming of bodies the back of a hand
in a long and all-too-clear movement from eye to chest as though that would say

it clearly enough washed out lawns or the fault in the weave on the doctor’s collar
below which the collarbones rising and falling your hand twitches

while you try to concentrate on the diagnosis then later
the question as to the difference between self-deception and patience

and again this swollen awakening so you can’t get your eyelids up
residues a running like the crumbling of the saplings out of your earth

heavy shoe-soles drying a knowledge of dermatology and long
distance phone calls aglow with exhaustion

Original © Daniela Seel
Translation © Catherine Hales

Chekhov in Crimea

Author: Hendrik Jackson
Translator: Catherine Hales

he is leaning over his desk
into the light, which falls
in patches. outside tipped aslant
grey-black of tree-trunks, the broken-off
voice of the dispatch. steps of a crane
creaking floorboards, then the sea’s
constant rush of sound, silence of the stone

cries, cries, swirling
now from the veranda.
Marcus Aurelius: that a short life
should coincide with a long one
– formations of decay
trenches in the earth and bars of shadow
swallowed in blackness

Original Hendrik Jackson
Dunkelströme © 2006 kookbooks, Idstein.
Translation © Catherine Hales


You should have seen that …

Author: Jan Imgrund
Translator: Catherine Hales

You should have seen that expression of regret those who earn their living making faces.
They came here every year (from all points of the compass) to honour their ancestors their
deportment here too is immaculate, (strict)

they bear a great responsibility to the aura, are blinded and through the snowed-up streets –
to paint eyes that see everything

performance narrowed to slits when time was nearly up I glimpsed the final dislocation – an
almost voiceless hymn to beauty made it into the air

and eyes averted they
passed beneath a rain of lanterns through the streets a procession always ahead, and their
hands told the whole story (striking back coloured cloths)

when the exchange of air finally succeeded “faces lost” all of them together on the great

occurred to me : I had never seen them just standing

Original © Jan Imgrund
Translation © Catherine Hales


autumn for me was always
at home

Author: Maik Lippert
Translator: Catherine Hales

autumn for me was always
simply spring rewound
as though the trees
were pulling back their leaves
I rarely got really
excited about it
with haemorrhoids
but now I’m learning how
to smell autumn
as I’m starting to learn my own smell
at the roadside
in the leaves
the honey agaric of memory
the tales dad tells
of plump strands of mycellium
glowing among the trees at night
Originally published in German by © Edition Thaleia, St. Ingbert 2007


at home
what was that again
I’m sitting in the commuter train
thinking of the agony
of fish eyes
in a tin of sprats
do you remember
the red label
kilki w tomatnom sousje
the flat tin
open wide
hard to bear
that staring
people on platforms
mühlheim       dietesheim       steinheim
mondays to fridays always the same
litany over loudspeakers
an inspector suggests that I
should get a ticket
so that we know
he says
where you’re going

Originally published in German by © Edition Thaleia, St. Ingbert 2007