Tissue Sample : Penelope
Penelope in the Snow

By Barbara Köhler

Translation Rebecca Johnson



penelope is  waiting for  what

is penelope waiting? is calyp
so is circe is scylla is
charybdis are the sirens are
they all awaiting one: the one
the other – other than every
other waiting for him are
they waiting really waiting
for him to come to go to
stay and for him to change for

penelope is  waiting for  that

he expects he narrates he
waits for the moment that
counts if one has waited for
him she can wait he can be an
other he may come and go may
want to or not he can take his
leave and they are left
waiting let every moment pass
away  forget to stay away for

penelope waits,  doesn’t wait

penelope weaves & unweaves
time has beaten them and she
wheels and deals she waits
for herself not for nothing is
she unpicking it is inter
woven time undone a deal
between them and her alone a
webbed veil impenetrable is
she  free  he  could  suit for

whom isn’t  penelope waiting



I cannot imagine the body for my body any
more I have forgotten you not that you left me
and not that time passed : the body
bone deep memories perverted into cysts
uterine tumours ghostly conjugal fingerings
congealed into clots into hard white lime
scale into sclerosed exoskeleton the hard
ware of the me-machine working towards its
final calculation. I am working on it
I am aging – my shroud that will not be my
shroud a dead skin that keeps me alive
the dead woman’s skin the dress the CHITIN the
body amour that does not wax the text
that word for word and night for night
will go unsaid undone and lost count
down from the reverse slide of the fly shuttle
from here and there is there and again here
not true and cast away thrown away weft an
unwoven warp I can connect nothing with
nothing can something nix nothing make
something pale threads and fibres pulled
taut between nothing and against nothing
from night to night in palintropic harmony the
skin in a thread bare state its age spots
or summer’s freckles. Nobody will come and
no day. I will unbecome. Become not-i
with the slide of the fly shuttle i am nearing
zero, real value one half: i had one
man. I have a son who wants to become one
and counts and commands I am a half-formed
thing for him that he would like be rid of i
am the only one who is free Helen’s cousin
the bridal prize: i am nobody’s woman and
Nobody will come. I am freezing. It is cold
is  old  is  white  it  whirls  eddies drifts
it is snow. It is a fall that is not one
the world afloat as if gravity were something
tender something tentative and crystals of
water fog this stillness in its words dancing
silently. It melts on the skin my skin
like the prickle of tears so many small numbing
stings the softly coldly muted snowflakewords
that  cover  everything: a shroud  and warmth

Excerpted from the poetic cycle Niemands Frau.
Suhrkamp Verlag, Frankfurt, 2007.