Ships Glow at Night

By Nico Bleutge

Translation Paul-Henri Campbell

 

plunge into the water’s movement
if light merged with the light, their union would birth
another light, affinity of flight and insight,
a semi-state between gas and liquid
that overturned the world. understanding the waves
as a tankship does gliding across their bright surface,
skin-like, membrane upon membrane, a reconnaissance squadron for the weary
rays of light, and currents spring forth, milewide veils
where all matter transforms to energy, glowing smoothly,
cloaking the interplay of zinc and rust,
silent crystals, and the impulses of land-bound traffic

strew about sand, with a brittle sound
the canal routes were ahead of the waves
light vessels plowed a path for them through the pack ice
wanted to wait for the beauty of the new world
memories are gyrating, lazily, gyrating
as if they were threads of air, living moss animals
the migratory motions of lost
merchandise that will suck up the daylight
together with sailors on deck, their glaring red reflecting vests
still growing for a brief moment in the dawn
the glow deepened, raising up the earthen substance ever so slightly
sea seemed as land and land seemed as sea
that was land once again, rebounding, time. the warm drift of the gulfstream
sent its waters over, passing the southern tip of greenland

 

 

 

 

open the door, with its brittle sound
stare at the inner mist
a room, as if painted over with ideas
the sky, upward-dreamt deepness, a distant
awareness of full-depth avalanches, constant
growth and layers of soil, think of the
trajectories overland, look as if from the sea to there,
they were building up a coral stock, from many points at once
they pushed forward, circuits, floodgates of light
had broken through the old masses,
spaces like glass, with their fleeting
glow, as if day were not, as if snow were not
and lungs, no currents—congestion. follow the troops
on their way downwards, each thing motioned onward
according to its own impulse, an opening of manholes,
bays, a sense of altered routes. think as if
the muddy sand, faraway in its awareness of layers upon layers of mussels
think as if muscles and chalk, membrane for membrane
built up, a dream of textures, skins, into which you
enter, can’t you look outside anymore, as if everything and everything were
interconnected, in union, virus of the worldmail, no more ground and no
night in thoughts, forever circling, growing matter
that carried itself, encompassed by atlantic waters, to the earth-weary
sea, closing in, as if it were sand, as if the light were
intensifying, painting paths like air into space

 

 

 

 

now night is a noise in which creatures vanish
with a heart in the middle, specters of imagination
from below the engines are hammering against the hull
whilst the water is already shedding its roots
and the air is fading into nothingness, dust and flakes and feathers

now crystals are mixing with the path of refueling routes anew
channeling land against the ceilings of containers. oxygen
is settling wherever the rays are exploring the arctic sea
and the fish dissolve into fish, a movement
that isn’t following any dreams, visible only when vanishing

and the boats pick up speed, push forward swaying more distinctly now
on the surface of the sea as if on tracks, as if they were
strewing about time, with increased turnover
pushing forth into buildings, bursting the seams of warehouses,
but at the same time moving like a swarm of mosquitos above the shrubbery
memories, of a distant summer

hazy fragments at the bottom of childhood
from distant waters, a few kids
slicing up an apple on the balcony, giving me the slices
while i gaze upon the river and hear the barges, their
hammering. look how the warmth is sprawling, look how the barges

were pulling along the glow on their decks
while i am gathering a few leaves, encompassing them with my hand
encompassing them and waiting for their fragrance, small goods
that suck up the stream, folding up beneath the light

 

 

 

 

landscapes are revolving, from their lines
routes of light and oxygen in thoughts
shadowy beaches revolving, hastily like embers
across membranes, the docks and vanishing lines
revolving, the ice and the continental depressions
everything is flowing forth, without weight in its lungs
the affinity of power and being included
intimately related to the strings, thicker than quartz
where the drift mingles with dust and vegetation
painting sand into the air, strewn light, in layers
without noise, a bay, upon which one may land
and surfaces of fences revolving, their radiance
western coasts revolving as well as fright cars
peaks and algodones, fold sliding over fold
exploration for awakened eyes, and nothing is covered
so that tracks resemble tracks and bodies
dissolve into nothingness, withdrawing unto themselves
like rust into glass, like snow behind a face
that doesn’t go amiss, without the tanks hammering
stored up, and where a frosty echo may be found, quick
flight through smoke, along borders, çukurca opens up
and cizre, gao opens up, sikasso, tamanrasset, ghat where jerboas
run along and steep depressions, the eastern overland pass, from the green
ladoga lake to the white sea, close to uranium ore, herds
of salt and spray, developing, gradually taking hold of the routes

 

 

 

 

at some point the flakes give in, with a drop
in the middle, with a noise. if you wait long enough
the bowls on the table will continue to grow
and the leaves in your hand will turn to grass
in which you yourself will be sitting. reach into wood, a few threads

sleep, a few threads of zinc, you gaze towards the floodgates for a long while
and the river turns into a shaft, through which warmth enters
with its surge, with its grip, satisfaction
brooding of skin and insects, thicker than resin, and you don’t know

if the fish are following the chalky shadows or the berries
are slinging wax into the air, iodine matter, in layers, without noise
the fragrance of hay, the children say, with a river in the middle
and you don’t know if they are thinking of words, of plants,
or if they are plunging into the water’s movement

a few men are waiting along the shoreline
strewing sand over the benches, digging up seashells
by their roots. if you stare at it long enough
the apples will return, and you may continue to grow, in your half-
sleep, at some point. your mother opens the balcony door

sweeping across the wood, but it seems as if the water were
vanishing and you could just cross the threshold
you follow the tracks, you see the old freight yard
and while the dust is spreading, you pick up one
of the rusty freight cars and load it up with rubber
and feathers, minerals, and blossoms that are almost sleeping

 

 

 

 

and has the air, you might ask,
has the water already fallen back into time
give radio signals, with a feeble cable
do not get too close to the large barges
ships glowed at night, pushed themselves off from the water surface
gentle sea-barrels slowly severed their matter
created a place for themselves beneath the bottom of the sea
swing bridges, currents of land, there was a rare light
in the air’s lowermost layer, no salt, no muscle tissue,
just goods, blinking, coming together contracting on deck

pushing off, asking, slowly everything is set into motion
towards sleep, as if the bodies wished to vanish, their murmurs
surrounding them like liquid ice, as if the gaps were about to open
and close again further up, withdrawing in silence

like smoke from heavy winds, was, was there
already fire. the blazing, the consummately blazing
light. mosquitoes appear, scattered across your memory
roots in the middle, shafts, ancient weathered lava layers
collecting around light, the dust changed its color
turned red, glowing, the forces of nature tore away at the hull
escaping lungs, filaments, akin to corals
headed towards the mainland, going, diving, going
the sea now embraced the islands, driving the influx
away again. no fire. everything is wandering. give me water
turn the ice

 

 

 

 

with floral nectar and brown seeds
with dashes of green and watery threads
could the leaves of the rubber tree, withdrawing,
drawing paths like air into space
as soon as you approach and make a cut
the milky juice flows forth from the bark and the incision deepens
as long as the wax sends over its fragrance. cotton grass
undergrowth. what you see are the white droplets
and a man, enriching the fluid with sulfur,
increasing the melting point a bit. feel the transformation
just like tunnels close again in the background
membrane bonding with membrane, graphite rich areas within
the air. and the animals dig themselves inwards, understanding
how they may swap the winter blue matter, feldspar, hairballs,
magnetic congestions, covering up their sway, their
microcrystalline structure, carried into channels

reach for wood, a few brittle threads
whatever mixes, are the plastic shovels. ozocerite
drifting shoes, dyestuffs, their odor like that of vegetation
the manganese faults are ahead of the shelves
and the moon flower, which children imagine to be in mumbai
or manaós, beats on from below. catch up with the land
take a little tube, and if you think of words like schneeberg
or of schlema, you slowly inhale the smoke
and let the memories grow

 

 

 

 

the flank blasted sand, like nothingness
behind fences, posting, stranding, all is aglow
without noise in its lungs, without weight
grinding down its traces, lines, inner
woods, always along the routes. return
to the coast of the northern sea, in the autumn with its working
gardens, dissolved in thoughts, harder than salt,
to oujda, bogovađa, nuevo león
where names are hewn into wood and from nothingness follows
that something might mix with arrival or absorb
no more ground and no time in its disappearance
take a piece of mint, almond, take a sesame field
a barrel of rubber, paint its floor blue
and sink the barrel. en bàs, with thoughts,
with weight in its flanks, always on sand
collecting fish on land, close to fluoroscopy
almost familiar with its rays. as maltha, pitted pieces
as fold in the pass or as emergency, as a dirt road in the woods
with skin and insects, in water as a mark
for frequencies, as escape for little birds, as shadows
i can see them, as couch grass, seashell,
or water fern, as bodies boasting crinkles, as bodies breathing
while sleeping at the bottom of childhood, always
from the sea, surging, carrying, fixed
by ideas, floating between reversal and momentum

 

 

 

 

where plants mix and mingle, a dead calm, the earthen substance
mill, where pigments dry and water
slowly boils away. as sloe, with an ephemeral
bloom, the sleeper’s face may
turn pale. what he dreams, while exploring earthwards,

is sucked in by the leaves, without flight,
without fire, like snow almost, beneath a storm
or lead garnished with a dash of vinegar
he rubs the bark until its blue and buries
it in an hollowed out piece of wood. surging,
shaving, henceforth only sleep may revolve

henceforth haze, close to memory, escaping
noise, escaping like water in grime or the aftermath
of currents and specters. be spray
with impulses, be dust, in nothingness, a tuft of
warmth, try to be thorn and feather

or the powder that he gives you. light matter
in gentle revolutions, saffron, whatever dreams, the flower’s
stigmata, ocher, traces of madder, as if the water
were fire, dissolved. give in

crawl with the roots, drift of threads
of chlorite, a wide awake nest,
pulverized, let it dry in the sun. mix
it in a seashell, a kettle of wax
dappled with odors, with energy, with safflower

 

 

 

 

to see from the sea, motionless
in the altered air. ice fields, splint green clouds
without feeling, pervading them slowly
children are whispering something about rain, pre-summer’s night
painting the boat’s hull in white lead. affinity
something with waves, that the passageway of spread grass may stay
not sink, in the middle of time. seaweed woods grew
in the depths of the polar ocean, down from old mountain stairs
glaciers climbed into the cracks of rocky roads
without clearing the plains. the drops are vanishing
nothing but water on their mind, residue of light earths
mosquitoes are creating air with their little capsules
that carries them. perceive the current
resounding scarves along the drift’s edge

surge for surge urging on through eddies
in its small drawn bundle and glow
layers of rock, out of which one could break warmth
and light. bodies are thinking of settling
lifelines, bones, almost amongst them breathing
be land, in every quick motion
stay close to the coast, water on deck, energies
pushed forward into the coolness of the sea, bound by nothing
beneath eternal sands, speak of continents
he who is of weight. hear nothing, spark nothing, do not
be freight, swarming through the sea’s inland.

 

From nachts leuchten die schiffe.  Verlag C.H . Beck, Munich, 2017.