The Wars are Coming Closer
There is nothing you can do about it
In Case of Illness
The Fruit
The Final Image

Author: Kurt Drawert
Translator: Lina Fisher


The Wars are Coming Closer

The faded flower arrangements
at the heroes’ gravestone:
they do not mean anything now,
and we are forgotten, too,
in our cities –

at the close of summer, later,
when at long last
no one speaks of victories anymore and the scriptures
reach their silence,
that which we devised lies uselessly,
like the flotsam of deserted shores,
spread across mortal stones –

for now we walk upright
among machines and cast offs
for now nothing is final,
for now the other animals
seem to sleep in chemical swamps –

but the wars are coming
closer and closer.


There is nothing you can do about it

The first sentence is missing. The second
will be a blonde, boundless dream
in the damaged body
of the nation. There is nothing
you can do about it. Perhaps
all it is now is
biochemical misery
caused by poor diet …,
emotional vestiges
without a society to utilize them…,
maybe mindlessly mind-blowing …,
added value without machine
and manual …,
and the only other thing I know of
is a journey to Poland during which
one loses one’s speech.

The silly figure earlier,
finished off with a high dividend yield
and well suited
to being lied to from all directions
Decidedly too close
to my window. Something is stirring
and wants to shoot right away.
There is nothing you can do about it.
I am also merely a guest
in an unspooling film
and suspended
without purpose.

This, in any case,
is how one provokes friendly fervor and calls
off the next state occasion.
And this is true: after Auschwitz
the Germans are
entitled only
to poetry. But the wagons
to circle along their customary course.
A funeral procession, the quiet assertion
traded as the latest news
among philatelists.
The rest sets off at speed, always
along the mainline. Downhill
is a self-sustaining direction.
No angel turns the screws,
no deserters in sight,
who line the roadside
to be counted out,
meanwhile no saving grace grows.
One would have to buy
Hölderlin’s optimism, and anyway,
a false passport in your pocket
year after year,
you get used to it.

And there is nothing you can do about it,
says a voice at the window.


In Case of Illness

Just because you briefly keel over,
nothing needs to be revoked for a long while yet.
Someone will loosen your clothing,
someone will undo your shoes.

Trust them. Trust the nurse’s
grip, the stab in the vein
and the realization of autumn.
A small, inflamed corner

will surely be where your world weariness lies,
the speech you made yesterday, your indignation.
Take courage: the black of their eyes,
it means help

will have been given to you. They only search
you for jewellery now, they only
size you up. Trust them,
these are your judges. And bide your time

for a while. They are already writing something down
or off, they are already passing on
the file, they have already set the cart rolling
below. Your sought-after person

disappears, dignified
as always, on that level
below the ground. Indispensable,
even if you’re almost naked,

next to the others and half open
like a hastily passed doorway.
Routine, say very dark voices
behind the curtain, child’s play,

the porter could do it. Believe it,
the gods are talking. None of this will affect
your personhood after all, your guaranteed
civil rights, the colleague

who seals up your desk,
sets up the appointments. But there must be
a final ablution,
a dim light before nightfall.


The Fruit

For now the fruit lies,
outstandingly beautiful,
on the ground.

But as soon as tomorrow,
in that spot
which hit the ground

the rot would set in,

from the inside out,
at first a small
still quite pretty tinge

of the skin.
The autumn
of its life would also

pass quickly,
and before
the wind turned,

it will have grown
silver mold
and assembled

parasitic swarms
of flies in its wounds.
Industrious maggots

it had brought along
from the trees

and cross, from the core,
its flesh: a small
animate shredder,

an assiduous workforce
to break it down.
Then would have come the hour

of decay
and the stench of the end,
corporeal sludge,

nothing else would speak
of youth
and of the proud beginning.

But for now the fruit lies,
outstandingly beautiful,
and conceited, on the ground.


The final image

Nowadays they sing in the marketplaces
of the West. I used to see them up high on the podiums,
we were dressed up then and played pioneers,
adoptive grandsons of proud Russian folklore soldiers.

Later the angels fell
like rotten fruit from branches. Those who were grown-up enough
shovelled the graves. Their songs did not change.
Though a red nose made of card completes the picture

and explains what the words conceal. Thank you.


Selected from Kurt Drawert, Wo es war, (Where it was), Suhrkamp 1996.