breast of duck, ruddy

Author: Ulrike Draesner
Translator: Iain Galbraith

hiddensee, south beach,

                      the beckoning bay

a walker down here, light?
rose hips, a house, a head
fluffy plant fluttered up

seaweed – curlicued sand. violet
ghost, or ghost of what:
smile, like light that is pitched

on a point, gnawed, a-giggle –
a child’s face? hollowy like
a cave shadowy for swallows

or mosquito bites, lumps too
skin-close, sandy, even: as light.
a thing that walks whirls reels


even so, so even the beach
in its work of friction, sandy, wanton
sea shining, and flat

us too, built in air. a
violet shadow, up there,
this porous fabric me calling


through it. if i say “you”. if
i say “i’d like …” “i …” a
child’s face. oh ghost! porous

shrub: my uttering of you. if.
me saying: you, even, wanton
and flat the sea. come on

you say,
come here.


breast of duck, ruddy,
            all down the street

screeching tram, the way it
took the curves the tightest
following through the mike
the conductress’s gibberish
expounding laughing how she’d
hellishly hip – as the
dog on the corner
urged the frizzy bitch to play
gauchely even whistling bumped
his hips against her over and again
minced along beside her all
paws square – and she just
yawned her tongue so

kids played their last
hide-and-seek of the day

the way the tram whizzed now
dead straight along down the street
the way the reflection
of its windows in the tarmac
beat its wings


From kugelblitz.  Luchterhand Literatur Verlag (Random House), Munich, 2005.

We drove
The bodies of the olives
The dresses of the lemons

Author: Esther Dischereit
Translator: Iain Galbraith


We drove

We drove
above us flocks of small birds
like dark spots
marking our way
through the sky
You were holding a cake
in one hand
I was eating
you turned up the volume
I listened
you pointed to the rain-drenched
barns and fields
I saw
the wispy mists
of your country
I am weaving you in
and he wove me in
we were late at the counter
why did he not
remove his sunglasses
I saw a few crumbs
where I had been sitting
and the way the leather bulged




The bodies of the olives

The bodies of the olives
the olives of the bodies
an olive is missing at one of the windows
you cannot buy an olive
they are handmade and old
olives are sometimes in wars
they are the fallen then
I love bursting olives
they protect my ears
against the thunder of battle
There are no white or red olives
the olive factory ran out of paint
so they took war-green and painted
the red and white olives
these went in the press with the others
it was poison I heated in the pan
many people died
we continued to plant the orchards
using war-green paint
the trees in my family have survived
while my people lie underneath.




The dresses of the lemons

The dresses of the lemons
with fading stitches
lying on top of one another
before behind above
like the family
in front of the camera’s eye
for years
the moist flesh – encased
in its firm rinds
in the darkness of the larder,
of the centuries
a heap in a silver bowl

I took a look at them this week
and tasted their juice.

Anonymos, 1655, Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes



december 1914

Author: Jan Wagner
Translator: Iain Galbraith


The very deep did rot: O Christ!
That ever this should be!

Samuel Coleridge, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”

there always were some. but that morning
the water seemed thicker, almost hard
around the boat. stuck in the sea
the rudder choked. we men
were much afraid. that evening the beach
and front were crowded with strange people.

“like little bells,” except that people
wouldn’t hear, cried the man next morning –
he’d built himself a pulpit on the beach.
still half-asleep in bed we heard
him rail at the wind, intone amen
as if on bended knee. to that unyielding sea.

as if between this beach and the bering sea
ours was the only village, more people
poured in every day: muscle-men
and prima donnas, stalls, “mr morning
and his noted cup of tea,” a horde
of staggering drunks across the beach

from east to west. only when the beach
became a mass of jelly and the sea
merged with the land, did that herd
retreat behind the authorities’ fence. people
no longer spoke of spirits, the morning
come of judgement day, foulest omen.

when do exceptions become the rule? men
reeking of drink, unshaven priests, botch-
work, holes in clothes. whether morning
or evening, nobody cared. did we see
our children’s forlorn faces? were the people
blind? when it chimed thirteen, nobody heard.

a boy piped up but not one of us heard –
for how could it be true? then two men
confirmed the news; soon all our people
had it on their lips. beyond the beach,
as if nothing had happened, lay the sea –
the incoming waves. the very next morning

women returned to the hearth, all morning
people banged pots, cleaned. and on the beach
we men stood in silence, gazing out to sea.

december 1914

“One of the nuts belonging to the regiment got out of the
trenches and started to walk towards the German lines.”

‘course we thought they’d gone loco,
each man-jack a sitting duck
armed with naught but mistletoe
and plum-pudding. but they were in luck –

the guns were still. in no-man’s-land
and mud we met between the lines,
at a loss for words, each hand
at a trouser seam, until the woodbines

did the rounds, were lit, and someone
shared a bar of bitter chocolate.
one man had news of a poison
that did away with louse and rat,

others, still too stiff to talk, swigged
rum, or got out family photos,
played halma, yelled, swapped
addresses, uniforms, helmets, jocose

till under the sheaves of streaking tracer
on that soft and naked common field
there was nothing left to offer
but the trenches and their nameless yield.



impossible to trace the note back to its author,
for keeping mum was thought a point of honour,
and yet the news was plain – herr richter
had three nipples. a tinkling peel of laughter
passed along the row of girls behind us
and died like showering pins. beyond the window:
early christmas snow. a train in the distance
split the white sky from the white below
when suddenly the bell gave us a jolt:
in the corridor on endless shelves, afloat
in their heavens of formaldehyde,
were tiny naked gods – each dewy eye
watched us walk past. as if they knew what
growth lowered under our skin, and why.

Journal, Lago Momentane
Souvenir Trip
Mountains of Deer

Author: Ron Winkler
Translator: Iain Galbraith

Journal, Lago Momentane

our arrival was catastrophically fine,
the sky picturesquely colourless, the present
like a precise body of water.
we collected gods and purified
them (of necessity) until late at night. the air
was inevitably large. there were sung beasts,
phenomena of peculiar panicle.
most of it looked possible.
we felt conspicuously now.


Souvenir Trip

for Jan Wagner

behind extensive sheep lay Premium Highlands,
its alphalandscape was instantly cognizable, its adequate design
a middle stratum in the prime of life, you spoke
of mountaining together, several egocentric pubs later on
of manic harvest, who knows, these foreign parts were intransitive
home – and therefore dangerous. they kept malt-cows
which acted like malt-cows. every day contained perhaps
ten kilos of beauty. sun-ups like monsoons.
rainfall sometimes like the light, sometimes like substantives.
around us so-called Glenn Gould birds. peculiar windows.
they too were based on charter language. bridging
what was a gap. and parting your gaze followed them
in an oddly Victorian way.

Mountains of Deer

from a primed and decoy landscape we extracted
part of the inhabited zone: a typically fuzzy population of deer.
a homeopathic specimen of these we dipped in our synaptic fluid
showing that their forest function ran in inverse reciprocity
to trees, or else behaved as if it did (–>Schrödinger’s flicker).
their frequency was green, their mean was higher still than zero
and could be gauged with colour theories and clocks.
into stands, sounds and stereometry we split several of the samples
(and yet I liked the eyes especially, which lacked conclusive values).
we categorized them as a bundle of aligned impulses
with an alternating locus. they coupled to and fro and were
orthographic relations. their retarded evolution gave us time.
thus we induced their radial decay and at ease
went back inside our dwelling products.