World Image I
The Turning Point
Changing the Wallpaper
O Chicago! O Contradiction!
Mine
Marlboro is red. Red is Marlboro.

By Volker Braun

Translation Robert Lemon

 

World Image I
Yesterday the spring was a disgrace.
Today the summer’s rather good.
Once the river sank without trace,
Now we are seeing the flood

 

The Turning Point
The surprise of a land breeze
In the corridors. Smashed
Desks. The blood, that the newspapers
AND WHAT OF FAME? AND HUNGER
vomit up. History
Turns on its heels;
For one moment
Resolute.

 

Changing the Wallpaper
The management tells me
They quietly finished remodeling ages ago.
But the house is no roomier
The stairs are still awkward
And are the little rooms any brighter?
And why are people moving out and not in?

 

O Chicago! O Contradiction!
Brecht, did your cigar go out?*
During the earthquakes that we unleashed
In the states built on sand.
Socialism is going and Johnny Walker’s coming.
I can’t keep it firmly in my thoughts,
Which I lose track of anyway. The warm streets
Of October are now the cold paths
Of economy, Horatio. I shove the gum into my cheek.
It has come: that which is not worth mentioning.

 

Mine
Here I am still: my country’s fleeing west
PEACE TO THE PALACES; WAR TO THE REST.*
It was me who gave it a kick up the behind.
It throws itself and its meager finery in the fire
The winter’s followed by the summer of desire,
And I can stay here where the sun doesn’t shine.
And as for my text, no one understands a line.
What I never possessed is torn from me
What I didn’t live I will miss eternally.
Hope lay in wait– a trap down which we fall
Everything of mine’s now part of your haul,
When will I say “mine” and really mean “all”?

 

Marlboro is red. Red is Marlboro.
Now sleep, rest… And yet you lie awake, smiling.
That’s just my body, which is still on the move,
Going down any old streets, but oh, where to?
You said you wanted to embrace the unknown.
Now I’m familiar with all that. It’s a wasteland.
Wasteland, you say. Or I call it wealth.
Savor it, breathe, eat. Come on; open your hands.
I’ll see change like this just once—no second chance.

 

Die Zickzackbrücke. Ein Abrißkalender.  Mitteldeutscher Verlag, 1992.