Translation Joseph Given
Crows, tells one
who survived the war,
have to be cooked
with the wood of the pine,
to bind the poisons,
and served with sorrel
which animals spurn.
The order of a world at peace
is hard to understand.
Here we sit in the open air
and marvel at the sunset.
The crows on the pine
will have the final word.
Suddenly someone comes up with cinnamon
as if that were the explanation
for all the secret entanglements
of heaven and earth: cinnamon.
My grandmother saved four stalks of it
through the war, no more.
The birch shakes off the winter;
the wind tests its resilience.
And all I can think of is cinnamon.
As far as I’m concerned, you can call
the moon a pumpkin,
but when someone says cinnamon,
I can’t feel anything except the warmth of the dead.
It takes a hopelessly long time
to get a rough idea of who you are.
The ineffaceable love of apple trees,
the history written in the clouds.
Research on grass, not intended
for printing, enchanted water,
rendezvous in the accessible darkness.
Nothing for gods, really.
Breathe to escape the curse;
hopelessly long, yet so short.
You have to stand with your back
to the wall in the evening light.
Then you’ll see the storm
announcing its arrival in the crown
of the lime. The mad blackbirds
as if from some late work.
We will be judged on the number
of times we withheld the truth
although the word lay warm on the tongue.
A glance at the hastening clouds,
and you understand the gulf
between the heavens and the earthly world.
Your back to the warm wood,
and then the sunset.
Alfred Kolleritsch, born 1931, is an Austrian writer, poet and philosopher, particularly known for his opposition to the “return of the never-changing”; i.e. to a society plagued by narrowness and stagnation. As founder of the Austrian literature magazine Manuskripte he has aided many lesser known writers to greater success.
From Michael Krüger, Umstellung der Zeit © Suhrkamp, 2013
Translation © Joseph Given
Joseph Given’s translation of Michael Krüger’s collection Umstellung der Zeit will be published by Seagull Books under the title Seasonal Time Change in 2015.