Pling – plang – little plate
Lyrical poets are mad
The rationalist’s lullaby

Author: Peter Rühmkopf
Translator: Henry Holland

Pling – plang – little plate

Pling – plang – little plate,
you’ll break first, then you’re wise
I am the son of Huckebein
and Leda, his good wife.

I am the coal, I am the coke,
the raven, silky black
I sure do love the man in the street
and on him turn my back.

Here the heaven knows no joy
and the joy is all unlit
and the light gets sieved through more than thrice
before they’ll publish it.

How can one single Vaterland
produce such bottomless gloom? –
I load my head with a picnic of thought
for worse yet times to come.

And show myself, or so you’ll think,
down on the paper, white:
as if a savvy, enlightened head
could thus become light.


Lyrical poets are mad

Acrobatics on the highest heights,
obscure and self-referential
dreaming up beings made solely from words
unreal and unessential

What moves us to it, why, what for,
do we leave the mat at all?
To scribble down a spurious, “Who’s who?”
in the time of a nose-dive fall.

What d’you see of below from the highest point?
The whole world lost at sea.
I say: writers of poems are certainly mad
and truth-seeking readers, will be.

I play my piano on the astral plane
four-footed, forty-toed, capable –
back down on the ground they no longer hope
that we’ll ever be made accountable.

Lorelei exposes her hair
beside the filthy Rhine . . .
I gracefully float in fear for my life
between friends, Heaney and Hein’.


The rationalist’s lullaby

At last the moon has risen,
and caught between hope and depression,
I’m unmoved by its face.
Ju-jitsu or do yoga?
I draw the inky toga –
evening’s curtain – and cocoon my space.

The stars ruck up together
– clear star-observing weather –
as if betting, each to each.
And I will sing, “contester –
above all play the jester!”;
before the Lord curtails my speech.

I’m happy to let the moon wait there.
D’you think she’ll help my mood there
or transform my whims into deeds?
I’ve got time unending,
so plenty spare for fending
off anyone who cares to join me. Take heed.

I would, if I could, remain,
bare-nosed and spouting flames,
from the withers of a horse.
Until I fall off with a thud
– out of Guenevere’s arms – into the mud.
I’ll say what I think. And propriety my arse.

Lord let me scorn your kingdom –
who’d season there my spring times?
who’d forest using my seed?
Who’d wheel my little bedstead
into a pre-heated care-shed
where I can fuck things up in peace?

Oh heaven, quite uncalled for –
if moon, kicked on with golden spurs
were to jump right over the earth?
Who the devil aroused the dog then?
Nurse your wrath you loved ones,
and poke the fires in what you say are hearths.

The guests have gone: leftovers
left lying, just don’t bother:
your cheapest jibes not voicing.
Tired of what you’ve seen often
let a pure yawn soften
the comfort of evening’s poison.

“Heinrich-Heine-Gedenk-Lied”, “Hochseil”, “Variation auf ‘Abendlied’ von Matthias Claudius” by Peter Rühmkorf
From: Gedichte, Werke 1 von Peter Rühmkorf, Bernd Rauschenbach, ed.
Copyright © 1959, 1962, 1975, 1976, 1979, 1989, 2000 by Rowohlt Verlag GmbH, Reinbek bei Hamburg
Translation © Henry Holland