The War after Next
Bowl in the Oven
Television Poems
Autumn Crocuses
Morbid Contest

Author: Hilde Domin
Translator: Emma Rault



I have no arms
My hands are stitched onto my shoulders
like wings
perhaps I should become a bird
but I don’t fly
perhaps a human being
I don’t kill
and I don’t need to embrace you
you killers
whose hands have cast the stone
from the very start
it’s only the sling that has changed.

The war after next
Einstein said
will once again be fought with bows and arrows
the fridge after next
will once again be a clay pot
filled with rainwater

Until then
perhaps the moon will serve
the misfits of this world
as a universal concentration camp




Bowl in the oven,
you are burning.
a glaze of humility
coats the shy
shimmer of a smile.
In this way you are chipped
just a little each day,
until wish and lament melt away
and a rose petal
or a butterfly wing
are almost a coarser substance.
Forgotten bowl,
the rainbow sets its foot
on the hand that proffers you
as naturally
as a pigeon alighting
on Trafalgar Square.





On the edge of sleep
they emerge
they bob
on the dreamwater
on the sheets
a horizon of dying
heads with big eyes
“Wars are fought with people”
they look at me
No sky so pale
as pleading eyes


The burning city
burns soundlessly
I see it every night
with a name that keeps changing
the presenter
for now
says the same one night after night
I can turn it off
for now
At least while I’m awake




For us, whose doorpost burned down,
on which our childhood years
had been marked off
inch by inch.

Who did not plant
a tree in our garden,
to put the chair
in its growing shadow.

Who sit at the foot of the hill
as if we were shepherds called to watch
the cloudsheep that cross the blue
pasture over the elm trees.

For us, always on our way
—a lifelong journey
as if between planets—
to a new beginning.

For us
the autumn crocuses stand up
in the brown fields of summer
and the forest fills
with blackberries and rosehips—

So that we look in the mirror
and learn
to read our face,
in which arrival
slowly reveals itself.




You spoke of burning ships
—mine were already ash—
you dreamt of lifting anchor
—I was long since at sea—
of finding home in the new country
—I was already buried
in the foreign soil
and a tree with a strange name
a tree like all other trees,
was growing from me
as they grow from all the dead,
wherever they may be.



My feet marveled
that the feet walking beside them
were not marveling.

I, who walk barefoot
and leave no trace,
was always looking at people’s shoes.

But the roads rejoiced in
their reunion
with my shy feet.

Beside my childhood home
in February
the almond tree was blooming.

I had dreamt
that it would bloom.



Hilde Domin, Sämtliche Gedichte.  © S. Fischer Verlag GmbH, Frankfurt am Main, 2016.