From ‘Postscript to a Poetics’
First of January, Resolutions
I am starting a new notebook
for questions that need no answers.
How long will this snow
linger on the rowan twigs?
Last night I dreamed I was riding
the wrong way on an escalator.
I wanted to find the returns depot,
my use-by-date had passed.
Why this irksome reticence in me?
And why, as in recent years,
does the stone have no voice?
Berlin, City of Childhood
At the end of the street, just
where it curves,
so one cannot see
whether it carries on,
sits an old dog.
He clearly does not know
how to get home.
It’s like that with me.
I was quite certain
that I lived here once.
In the house opposite
a bomb was once diffused.
A young woman brings her
rubbish to the bin in triumph,
as if it contained her whole life.
Out with it. She observes me for a long time,
but comes to other conclusions.
From an open window the sound
of a crying child.
It must have been this house.
expected neither reward nor punishment
from life. She knew exactly
what wasn’t at stake. The rest was
for men in uniform,
Gloves, for example, she
never wore, so as not to make them dirty.
Chamomile, cornflower and broad bean
went to school with her,
all of them passed with Distinction
as there were no fertilizers
after the great war.
What splendid broad beans.
Here, in the mountains my grandmother
never saw, when I looked today
at the grey grass from last year
that could finally breathe
after the long winter siege,
I was reminded
that she expected neither reward
nor punishment from life.
But what then? Nothing,
truth be told, nothing.
Walk in May, 2016
The sky a grey basin of ash,
where a greedy wind buries itself.
The earth steams with early warmth, beckoning
roots towards the light. I shall stop being a child,
shall not ask the grass for advice,
when the stones withdraw and are silent,
as if it really were a question of life and death.
Something else is at stake. It cannot be spoken
in my language. The dead know it:
they argue night after night in my head,
until morning switches off their voices.
Here and there patches of snow
that will not disperse, and on the weir
the complete works of old leaves.
But for the angry sobbing of the wind,
the truth might make itself known,
the artless truth that looks so much like grass.
I lay among drifts of snow,
by the larches, where in Autumn
the wind gathers the sheep,
and waited for the end
of distraction. No more birds
in the rowan, no sound,
no hub-bub in this white state.
Inscrutable and empty.
Eyes closed, I saw
my grandmother’s chapped hands
as she skilfully quartered an apple
and made us all equal
on an afternoon in winter.
Einmal Einfach, Suhrkamp, 2018.