Prologue
Possible Childhood
Father Comes Home
Beet Harvest
Daily Life
Tracks

By Henning Ahrens

Translation Mark Herman , Ronnie Apter , Geoffrey S. Koby

 

Prologue

Only the poplars
endure the days. Planted
quickly grown and shadows

spraying over the flat land. Here
where the earth stopped folding
I go. Where cold

glacier bellies writhed
and crushed. Where power
lines draw eyes

into the void. Someone
running beneath me
bursts up

out of the earth and laughs.

 

 

Possible Childhood

In summer
the poplars were luminous with dust.
It smelled of harvest.
A book in my lap
I dozed against the oak
cradled by the brook on a pearl-yellow day.
Fields lapped silently
at village shores.

The crows came in autumn
when there were smells of loosened earth.
Wires hummed over the sugar beets.
Thin snow fell in winter.
In granaries and haylofts
we dug for the sun’s gold
between bales of straw
and mountains of grain. In the spring

fumitory grew on the railway embankment.
It smelled like sulfur. On the horizon
loomed foundry and steel mill
power plant and mine. The river
had been straightened.

 

Father Comes Home

Muffled roar of the thresher’s
throttled motor. Gleaming
eye of the headlight. Standing

he drives the machine home
trailing a cloud of chaff. The night
smells of diesel and straw. On the field

wagons are waiting full of grain: daily bread
harvested in the dark. At peace
I go back to sleep.

 

 

Beet Harvest

Wheel-crushed beets. Tractor treadmarks
on the roads. Mud. Evenings

a haze over fields villages
timberstands. Over soil

both sand and clay. Over willows
by the brook. Where I stood with a hoe

and grubbed up thistles. Beets bedstraw
flowers. Blood red. The kite above me

with its forked tail: autumn
was the time to fill the gaping emptiness

in chest and skull with leaves.
The time we went to harvest sugar.

 

 

Daily Life

Mole and mouse
smashed with a shovel.

Hen-pheasant on her nest
in summer beheaded

with the sickle bar. Chickens
ripped apart by beech martens

and dragged into the meadows.
Bulls were

fattened knives honed
tails twisted

and dungforks hefted.
Then the day

the plums hung
on the tree. Ripe. And apples

shone: fears
wrath and weapon were

well hidden.

_______________

Note: A sickle mower mows using two sets of moving teeth set in a sickle bar, which projects sideways from the tractor.

 

 

Tracks

Tracks at dusk
in the snow on the meadows

—a goat-footed angel
perhaps. In its beak

the hungering heavens’
last piece of bread.

The full-fed village sleeps
cleft by the street

on the verge of the railway.

 

From Lieblied was kommt. Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt,, Stuttgart, 1998