Hand Lines
Twelve Black Fathoms Deep

Author: Florian Voß
Translator: Andrew Shields

Hand Lines

Cherries blossom outside
but not in your courtyard
where the pigeons sidle
between the stones
to search for bread
The bread is in the breadbox
in the kitchen of childhood
beside oil, wine, and salt
That is sunflower oil
and the sun shines too
through the overcast windows
hung with curtains, sunshine yellow
on Sunday morning at nine

The one standing in the kitchen
is you at two and a half
and you use your hand
so small, with hardly any
lifelines yet etched into it
you use it to check the shining surface
Meanwhile mother and father
still sleep in their sleeping room
in water-green shadows
Meanwhile you use your hand
to check the iron’s hot metal, your
hand on the flatiron – hot it says
in you, it is hot, that is me


Twelve Black Fathoms Deep

It’ll be a long winter
The night pulls dark strings
Twelve black fathoms deep
the dull days tow
beneath the swells of night waves

It’ll be a long winter
The canvas sacks of ice
lie close together in the cellars
the ash-grey spiders tarry
in the frozen corners