Translation Jamie Osborn
for Christa Wolf
like teenagers we lay beneath the sun’s carriage,
tongues in the lisping shade called us flourmouthed,
i stuck idly in the porous membrane,
we took the air. buzzards circled quietly overhead
as you began to slide, very gently, out of plumb
a barely noticeable tilting of the axis, under your gaze
the meadow bowed, its likely end
closing in. behind you, i dozed.
you dared to test the field of view, while i
simply lay there and had no idea you were
drawing the pin from my hair, boring
it through your eardrum, you didn’t want to hear what you would see.
by then i’d opened my eyes, at last: heartache
in yours. as precaution i took your hollow organ
beneath my tongue, false motherwort
lay cassandra-like in your blood,
before beginning to bloom into the atmosphere.
i soon became your ward, on call, your little bundle of letters
stayed in me. still i mouth the bloodred flowers:
i read from them.
in tonguebelllight i hear quiet swarms
draw the evening out. hear the clothes bleaching,
at midnight reaching
into the dark, where spurge, white hellebore,
foxglove now embrace.
you can’t see them as they stand, siblings
on the meadowgreen, dragonflies quivering
the hymenoptera that give themselves to grace
and flee to night, to lamp. ploughed
speech is a rumour-field: in belllight it yields
richly for the strange tongues they breed.
murmuring paperdragons, whispercrowds,
they rise, pause, still. quieter
as the wine’s white meets the eyewhites, bursts.
shimmers, flickers, whirrs under glass.
the shiverwings have ripped the spider’s
silk leg off. and again. the mouth’s closing
blink exposes nothing, morning veils
wood and field, and evening sails
as legend above it all, its celebration of buzzing.
hamster at heart
on speech’s fallowfield, of memory, the Third
Pronounced Consciousness Authority
has pitched its tent, sailsheet already saluting
from afar with freshly chlorinated charisma. you shoulder
your cruiserweight, give yourself over to the premium blue
of time getting older, yet what you see peels
away your gloves: two frolicking little hands
in the light, two circinate brain-fronds on lookout:
they tolerate neither changing of rings nor the premises
of ill-omened memory, scan your skin
for a dewdrop’s tensile pressure. what they find
is lodged resistance. your success at what should be
a pudding with bloodsugar icing, sweet boycott’s grace.
while you’re eating, the chaos of grandmother’s bones
orders itself to one whole body, as tenderly tendons and muscles
sling synapses between the fibres, spots
bubble to the surface of your slowly-rejuvenating skin, which
is what did for her though now she gets up and feathers out
her suit. once more you give yourself over with authority’s
blessing to swoop on castthe smalltown brings up, lift
your erstwhile hamster to your heart, look out from under the sill.
you said, the eyes are wolfsblue,
and looked down at the little corpse they’d brought in bedding
for you to cut up, gut, rabbit
with a hole, deepred bloodsurf
where it split, you felt sick and
had to put down the knife,
someone else seized it and drove it
in, he didn’t count the bowels, or the heart,
or the other inner parts
as they came to light, wolfsblue the stomach,
the gall, wolfsblue it looked at you, little corpse,
until the pelt came off over its scalp and it exchanged
looks with you: yours drawn blank against its,
your insipid simper against its hare hilarity,
loud as thunder, and wolfsblue you
looked at me, until i shook my mood.
behind my brow, in my skull where a cleft
honour resides, lies my broken brother, whose past
looks so very much like mine. together
we took our parents’ garden as the world,
no thought to count the days, as gloriously as they passed.
grubbed out the pit for our wendy house
that lay fallow for years, played at cops and robbers,
police against the mob, squatted under bushes
and closed our eyes, each believing the other
couldn’t see us then. but the one saw us well enough,
stretched its arms out after us until there was nothing
else left: no blue neckerchief, no swearing on the flag,
nor the old silence, and all the while new
life came from the east. the one
pressed childhood’s dripping time into vows
and rites of thrift – i worked my arse off
so I wouldn’t flunk and went feverishly
to help, and find fame among the activists.
what i found i gave away,
as though the spark it held had long ago gone out.
i grew easy to please and demure, the one
couldn’t tempt me, but ensnared my brother:
at the entrance to hell, giving his head to the porter, playing
his suit as the man of honour. the one,
squatting as ever in its dirty corner, ripped off
the man of honour, reports flowed in just so,
my assiduous brother saw himself bugging,
shadowing and peeping. i turned my back.
between us, quiet time, unnerving. blackout.
at some point, though, as, at hell’s door
his head took his no longer extant foot in his
no longer extant hand and the phantom pain flared,
the contract broke. he retrieved his suit,
pulled it off, having assured himself of
his head. slipped away. the one let him, now,
drop. my beautiful, newly-won brother did not
break; he grew thick and hard in his corner.
mastered a time in which we were siblings again,
under a patchwork ceiling, lost,
squatting children, until borderlines fell. until, from our
skins, testicles, lungs, ovaries and brains,
the one took to its heels. and as we all
looked after it, proud, full of contempt,
the other pulled up:
came in at our backs and took its place silently in us.
our flesh, free for just that one moment,
was taken again. it cracked. my brother
broke. could no longer hold his little corner.
rights and laws queued up now to drive him
in a racket before them: he fell, stood up, fell again.
to say he saved himself would be a lie. only the shelf in my skull
remains for him. where cleft honour resides.
I’m coming to your point. the final period. i, raven
of the day. i flow over. turn to stone.
turn by turn. your children, childish, claim bone-
y legs and arms. i have nothing to bring. the frame
around around the frame keeps jamming, the car breaks down. way-
ward, my loving’s out at the seams. souped up. muctated. hope
only in openness, on your part. a beard grows on me, stoned
hair stands out. teeth. what if all that remained
were the changing of sex and shape?
a belt squeals about about me, what do i know, it ought
to tame you. so heavy. never go walkabout. if anyone caught
me like this, i would agree. raven, by night. crump-
led in the sheets i lay down you and me. i’m crying, writing, non-
stop. then back again. again. facing it off, love
and body get over it. like sweet apples. cleave
aheartened. what doesn’t come in one’s good for nothing. no one.
blinde bienen, Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 2010.