Translation Christophe Fricker
They say there’s several types of love
: a scream at night
: a poem on paper
: some cake and Darjeeling
: a snowy white feeling
Us lot, however, we’re down by the beach,
we stare at the ocean, expecting to see – today! –
this island emerge
in the distance – keep looking, long reconciled
with this century, still thudding in us, gone wild.
: island and city! Yes, of course –
: island and hamlet! Why, what else –
: island and chamber! Pray tell –
: where a tale with pig-tails will dwell!
Island with pig-tailed tale, you know,
and the casket of coral, remember,
in which it has hidden the magical spell
as written in delicate icing letters
with pink and pearly powder on top. –
My mind is enthralled, you must stop!
But us lot – the sea breeze is gentle –
we stare at the sea and the sea and the sea,
we don’t know the scream or the snow or the night,
we sit here and stare. The blue sea in sight.
Why does someone like me go running in this kind of weather?
Some cheering on for a Thursday
Running, running, always running
through the park, through tree-lined streets –
running, running, running, running
like an animal and … never stop!
Just keep going through the puddles,
cleansed by mud and tried by wind,
run until the trees around you
sing and lights begin to spin,
run until not just the dogs and
some forgotten older guys
stare at you with piercing eyes,
run until you are all numb,
what are days and what are hours,
running, running, till beside you
palm trees wave their flappy top
and some gorgeous orchids sop
you with their enticing scent –
but you will not be undone,
you will run as though it’s Tuesday,
spring in step you run right past them,
running, running, always running
like an animal and … never stop!
That would love to be friends with you
Or like one of these little
No more than
A craggy exertion of rock
Way out in the ocean
Which might, at best,
Have a pine tree on top
That typhoons have shaken
And warped into submission
And bent deep down to the ground
With no skies atop
Let alone a bird
Above around behind and in front of it
Nothing but miles and miles of
Fog that would love
To be friends with you
But the same is
For the pine tree too.
The Guiness parable
Barman’s Lesson, Given at the Brazen Head in Dublin
Stop! said the barman, hold your horses. Jesus Christ!
I held the glass already in my hand which he
had casually put down in front of me: a Guiness
is never to be rushed, it’s still alive when you
extract it from the keg, just look at it, how gray
and wan and terrified it looks, it’s coming to,
it needs to come into its own. Another three,
four minutes till it’s settled down, all black,
into its pint glass – foam so white, head half the height
of your old priest’s dog collar, firm though, any mouse
which ran across it wouldn’t leave a trace.
But then – and only then! – is this beer ready,
a great beer ready for you to enjoy. Until then:
I looked around in awe: eighthundred years of thirst
encased in somber wooden panels; when my time
had come, the barman drew the outline of a harp
onto the head – the emblem of his brewery.
But wait! He beckoned me to stop when, once again,
I reached out for my pint because he recognised
at once that I was just a foreigner and dumb:
Oh why so greedy, man! Enjoy your every sip
and your reward will be to see within your glass
how foamy gulp rings form the formula of your
own drinking, giving you a parable. Of what?
And how? He did not specifiy. Oh well –
So there I was. My glass in front of me, with all
of Ireland within it waiting for me: smoke
and mist and eau de peat and joy of song …
the barman over at the other end
informed each drinker how he nearly put
this moron off his drink – the one back there,
the foreigner! Who, carefully, now dared to pick
his glass up and who, far from drinking, has just
sipped at it.
One more thing
Not to be greedy any more,
no more hope, no more fear,
to just go ahead and sit
at the intersection of past and future,
turning into a given,
friendly yet not a fool,
quiet, not harmless,
relaxed, but not bored,
To taste a handful of strawberries
just by looking at it in the end,
to smell a freshly-mowed lawn
just by thinking of it with great pleasure,
And then, after a few years of practice,
with or without fasting,
to focus once more
and drink up the entire
in one go – that would be it!
The miracle of the crocuses
St James’s Park, as entered from Queen Anne’s Gate one 24 February
I had fifteen minutes to kill, you know,
and walking over to the park
seemed an idea as good as any –
it was one of those badass spring days,
thirteen degrees, at least, if not fourteen,
and everybody was just descending on the park
to get their share of the sunshine and
take a few quick pictures of Buckingham Palace
from the bridge,
and so there was this chatting and chirping
in all the world’s accents.
But it wasn’t the magnificence of the sky,
mirrored in the lake underneath me,
it was those crocuses that I suddenly,
at the back of all the shouting and screaming,
all shiny and white and shimmering purple
against a subtle green background –
it was those crocuses and also, I swear to God,
maybe also some daffodils here and there –
it was this crazy audacious all-out blossoming
that almost made me lose my balance
I was so in awe!
When was the last time I was
so dearly amazed?
I stopped in my tracks and
took a deep breath –
I would have just loved to show you,
would have loved to be ardently silent before it
together with you for a while, I swear.
But then, you know,
I only had fifteen minutes and
I really needed to go, exhale,
And you weren’t there
From Sämtliche Gedichte 2017-1987. Hoffmann und Campe, 2018.