ultimatum
doctor Benn
the magpies
blues in b
flourishing realism
conversation with the stone

By Yaak Karsunke

Translation Gregory Divers

 

ultimatum
22 september 1981

as superfluous as fountains
in the rain

blood & flowers trampled
smothered under saw dust

water cannon
rinses remains from pavement
& stones take wing

barricades & plumes of tear gas
burn in treeless streets

:open minds
open fire
open the prison cell doors:

 

doctor Benn

sleepless night (he already took cocaine)
now he hears the storm troopers come a-rollin’

there’s: the masses – there’s: discipline
there goes history through the middle of berlin
with “heil!” & “führer!” & rapture fills his brain
a nation a bottle of booze (in an emergency aspirin)
instead of asphalt soil & instead of neon: resin

a dozen years later he was seen
somewhat baffled kneeling in the ruin
& burrowing for understanding of what might’ve been:

when Hannibal
crossed over the alps
it already wasn’t meant to be
& Salambo was pissed off
later when carthage fell

 

the magpies

heraldic birds
of the manichaeans
the colorful fields over
which they raise havoc

wheatgold meadowgreen
on burnt sienna
colorful blossoms or
almost monochrome
like poppies in red clover

skimmed over
& subjected to
a hasty judgement
in vile black-and-white

 

blues in b

Bogart’s photo in an ashtray
of this bar where the waitress
is a bathing beauty queen
manqué who personally resents
every customer because she
was never the chosen one

Bogart has this weary smile
hanging in the corners of his mouth
& you’re hanging around here because it
looks even lousier outside (once
it was such a good idea:
re-vo-lu-tio-nize the province!)

after all Bogart also
simply drank too much
& back in the days of McCarthy
wasn’t all that brave like you
wished you had been back
in ’68, right?

– you stub out your cigarette
in the middle of Bogart’s face

Bogart remains deadpan
merely fans the ashes off
his mug with the brim
then puts his hat back on &
here’s looking at you, kid
:all night long…

 

flourishing realism
for Ingrid

weeping willows
comb the waves
on Claude Monet’s water-lily pond

that the master
– like the garden too – had
had built in giverny
according to his own design

in order (over a quarter-
century long) to paint both
again & again

:from nature

 

conversation with the stone

remember (he said
when he met me)
you are mortal

you’ll become sand
(i replied)

in which the wind
(was the answer)
erases all your traces

 

“ultimatum,” “blues in b,” “flourishing realism,” “conversation with the stone,” and “doctor Benn” from gespräch mit dem stein, Berlin: Rotbuch, 1992.

“the magpies” from hand & fuß,: Lyrikedition 2000, München, 2004.