Bill Evans, My Man’s Gone Now
Men in the darkness
Why I am not a great lover
Exegesis
Postcards of cats with human professions
Procedure

By Clemens J. Setz

Translation Matt Lomas

Bill Evans, My Man’s Gone Now

I wish
I could play that

of course, not precisely like him
but at least something similar

and of course not precisely back then
on that Sunday
in 1961 at the Village Vanguard

but at least sometime
long ago in the past

 

Men in the darkness

A guidebook from the 19th century
advises young women to place
sharp needles in their mouths should their train
disappear into a long tunnel
in order to avoid molestation
by unknown men in the darkness
and remain unkissed
until the light at the other end

 

Why I am not a great lover

The circumstances.
The Zeitgeist.

The inner insecurity.
The lack of faith
In anything thereafter.

Literature.
The wrong music
at the wrong time.
The creaking of the chandelier
in the next room.

The drunkards shouting
in the street below.
The ice flowers on the window.
The poem by Rossetti.
By John Donne.

The mental image of giant octopuses.
Of umbilical cords.
Of porridge.

The squeaking of the bedsprings.
The bitter scent
of oranges eaten this morning.
The tonnes of soap that accumulate
in the course of a lifetime.
The three-legged dog seen
in a park fifteen years ago.

The power cut in ’98.
The mood in the flat
in winter at four o’clock in the afternoon.

The cold, insect-speckled light
From the fluorescent tubes above us.
The box of toys under the bed.
The aching pain in my neck.
The sea.

 

Exegesis

He asked the mountain:
What will remain after man’s final
plea to time for clemency?

Rock, said the mountain,
granite and limestone.

He asked the mountain:
Is the risk of becoming extinct overnight
low or high?

High, said the mountain,
2196 metres.

He asked the mountain:
What sort of vegetation will remain
in such a wretched future?

Mixed woodland, said the mountain,
the odd meadow, moss and scrub.

He asked the mountain:
But what could we leave behind
as a testament or apology for our society?

Ski resorts, said the mountain, colourful, swaying gondolas,
and, if need be, summit crosses with inscriptions.

What do you think, he asked the mountain,
does she love me?
Will she marry me?

Grey, said the mountain, rocks and meadows,
Tourism in the summer and no end of red deer.

 

Postcards of cats with human professions

It can’t be that hard
to be a postman
A hat, a satchel full of letters
and the fresh air between the buildings

And to be a doctor
A saw, a scalpel
and two white lab coats
one as a spare
and a big book full of prescriptions

And a bricklayer
A mortar, a bag of cement
and a couple of bricks

And a nanny
A polkadot bonnet
Summer dress, glasses
and jam jars in a picnic hamper

And even easier
to be a robber
A racoon mask
a pair of shoes with noiseless soles
gloves from America
a diamond drill

Or a dog-catcher
A van with a load compartment
a sack-like net
a red cap

And finally an ice cream man
next to a playground
and in the background the shadow
of the largest Ferris wheel in Europe
with its brightly lit cabins
and the people falling out of them

 

Procedure

Only once radio contact
with the astronauts stranded on the moon,
with Armstrong, with Aldrin and with Collins,
had ended would the standard
procedure for a burial at sea come into effect,
according to a White House memo
from July ’69.

Every human being, the memo states,
who looks up at the moon
in the nights to come,
will know that there is
some corner of another world
that is forever
mankind.

Then, once the clergyman
had commended their souls
to “the deepest of the deep”,
the Lord’s Prayer would also begin
down here, below, with us.

From Die Vogelstraußtrompete © Suhrkamp Verlag, 2014