Translation Robert Lemon
To the Previously Most Common Bird in the World
To be the last of one’s kind
what a strange mission
When you once had different notions
of confinement and wide open spaces Very different
from the senior suite at the Cincinnati Zoo
Martha the last passenger pigeon in the world
what a dilemma that you were all so tasty
A single deli-wholesaler
sold in 1855 eighteen thousand
of you to hungry New Yorkers
When in your aviary
you miss real flying
remember your flocks
thousands of meters wide
or the breeding colonies
measuring fifty by six kilometers How you
darkened the sky as the first
European immigrants came to America How you
made them stand for hours
in the dark and make astounded calculations
Remember the time before
the extermination methods and railroad network
You were endangered
by a few wild animals
They are the plants in the headlines, not those in the meadows,
the forests and swamps, gardens and parks.
They are the plants that have been drawn into the subjunctive,
because we repotted them in imaginary parks,
a chapter in Earth history. Those that made way
for new developments, beltways, and power plants,
in the parallel universe they smell wonderful,
but in this one they just smell of paper and lists,
a bad conscience, and high profits.
We find ourselves deep in the thicket of guilt,
which grows up over lost jewelry, discarded rings,
ankle bracelets made of tarnished silver. In vain we trade
old feelings, search for images that move in dreams.
In my rib cage my heart glints like a hidden seed
of cress, a little leaf of dandelion.
Dim light falls on something drawn on the wall,
and I see they are pictures of the extinct plants.
For one moment all their names whisper at the same time,
And their colors shine forth again,
shine and shine, and together add up to a spring
like hardly any before,
like hardy any that ever existed in oil or on glossy paper,
like nothing ever produced in factories or industrial parks,
built on a pocket of land that was once theirs,
now so wildly overgrown with something new.
How we do it is not important.
Since last summer our research had been close
to its goal. Only the last step was missing.
I trembled as I said: A miniature mammoth
will carry our son around, Siberian tigers will
protect our daughters. One day will be like the other,
when we crack open the brains of large mammals:
ecstatic, dreamy, full of loss. Two hundred billion
nerve cells, dispersed, tied up in each other like
boats on the open sea. Brain, soul, and senses
set sail together, a fleet in formation.
Call it war, call it madness: this is
the freedom of love: to create new beings,
to set them aside for ourselves. This is the freedom
of our species, to create other species.
God gave us the gift of a construction kit.
It is true, you can be too dreamy
to survive. There were always several
heavens strolling beside you. All the other
species were friendly. Well, until we came.
God gave us rage, that strong feeling
without direction or utility, and an appetite. You, Dodo,
then vanished quickly into that other world,
in which Alice is forever trying to learn Wonderland games
from you. But that’s not enough for us, we want
you back. Cute, naïve, with your trusting, dumb nests
on the ground. We think of you as a harmless companion
for our children. Believe me: we’re almost there.
Dodo, you will be reborn like the sunlight
at the break of day. I promise you:
You will be among the first that we make.
From: Silke Scheuermann, A Sketch of Grass. Poems. © Schöffling and Co., Frankfurt am Main, 2014.
Aus: Silke Scheuermann, Skizze vom Gras. Gedichte © Schöffling & Co. Verlagsbuchhandlung GmbH, Frankfurt am Main 2014