On Yesterday
Status Report
An Experience

Author: Günter Kunert
Translator: Gerald Chapple


Translator’s Note: The poems below are all from 2013 and taken from typescript. They reflect both Kunert’s debt and his reaction to Brecht, an early mentor. The translations respect the voice, language, and form of the originals, which make a Kunert poem unmistakable in German.


1. On Yesterday

The fingers that
held these old toys
have long been turned to earth. Leaving
the doll in tattered dress behind
and the tin locomotive’s
broken spring. So too
the crumbly lead soldiers
crudely painted faces
lifeless in so many battles
where they fell in ranks
over and over again until
the cardboard box burial.
All bear the stigmata
of childhood love
wounds scratches evidence
the customary vestiges
that usually come from love.


2. Status Report

We can say anything because
nobody listens. Among the blind,
we can point at
everything. We can experience
anything we haven’t actually
gone through. We can
wander all the pathways
in the almighty labyrinth
and we can touch a corner
of the minotaur’s cloak
before it
swallows us up.


3. An Experience

Perfect silence envelopes you
the moment you’re far from here
and far from yourself.
In a stony wasteland
on a different continent
beyond the real one
you’ve come from.
Perfect silence sounds
like perfect deafness.
As if hearing had vanished
in the surrounding space
in the solitude
in the emptiness of your self.