Leafing through the World

Author: Annika Reich
Translator: Katy Derbyshire

Leaves, leaves, everywhere.

I want to leaf through the world. Stand tall as a mighty oak. I want sticks, rustling, sailing and falling, the roots sunny side up, the crown head over heels. The falling, the felling, fresh verdant buds and the fattest of rings. Anything grows, rooted and branched, and all the sap to drink.

Leaves, everywhere.

Some barely unfurled, others rise on the wind, most don’t even dream of it. The logs long since ashes before the trunk crashes down to the undergrowth. The trunk still shaken while the apple bleeds juice into the grass. I drink it fizzing and swallow it down to my tree, the tree inside me. Buzzing on the buds of my tongue. Nipped.

I stare into the woods and spot myself from behind them. This much wood can be as wild it wants. A thicket, no through road. Crisscrosses, cones, tracks, trunks, crosshatch and chaffinch, carved stick bescribbled with felt tips, ripe green and rifles, brown, RED, raindrops and lotus effect, a scrunched tissue, ochre, mud and whorl, forest foliage, hide and seek amidst the moss—the world is a membrane between me.

I can’t see the wood for the trees, can’t see the trees. Trees aren’t backwooders, foregrounders. The world is not my background and nor am I its. The world is between me—it and its leaves. I can see that, I have the world in my sights. I sight the world and don’t look at it.

I can saw the trees down, stare them down too, stare them from here to there, from today to tomorrow. They play along, they don’t need me for it. The woods accelerate into their particles. I see them disembodied and embodied. Mosses and grasses, painting and plucking, screening and dabbing.

The tree is not foreseen inside me. Gimme shelter, the tree says to me, a jade-ed umbrella. My helter-skelter its shelter. Strip the willow, do si do and around we go. Who’s tree and who’s me? With my thumb I stamp leaf after leaf. The huntress not bothering today, no kapow, sparing the doe that smudges its tracks with every line.

I can leaf through colour until it splashes and drips. I can beat up shape until it’s creeks and creaks. I landed up in the tree because that’s where the swing is, swinging me out of the blue. Swinging now sky-blue, my sights turn bright orange, then light brushes the green and I leaf it open with my toes. Flying cures the blues. Blueprints in a somersault, until the world presses through the leaves. Leaves, leaves, everywhere.


Translator’s Note

This piece was written for an exhibition catalogue, in which each writer tackled one room in an exhibition by Katharina Gross. Annika Reich has worked closely with Gross for several years, including workshops on how to write about art (my least favourite kind of translation, usually). Without knowing what the room looked like, I sat down to work on the text and imagined myself in a childhood tree-house. And as I translated in a frenzy—it was clear this kind of writing could only be approached very freely—snatches of poems and songs pushed their way in between the leaves, intruding like automatic writing along with the original’s alliteration and rhyme. Can you spot them in among the trees?