German Poetry Now: A bilingual online-anthology, featured by DAS GEDICHT chapbook
Epitaph for a pair of penny loafers
Dear Mrs. Wine Bottle, esteemed Sir Ashtrays!
I’m not a hired speaker. I do not live
By the order of the state, nor the church.
I’m a forgotten inhabitant of peripheral realms,
The province-world, a surviving relic, a poet,
Nothing else. And I take the liberty of giving
An eulogy which I had promised my shoes that we
Now, after an aching path of woe carry to eternity.
This here, my room – as you know! – is a grave.
Former poems rest here, threadbare holey socks,
Coffee mugs that shattered under the circumstances,
Cigarettes turned to dust, cookies that died a horrible death,
Crunched up hopes and a moldy, rubber gas mask
From the workers union – for the event of peace,
As the warped term denotes. Within these walls
Devious moths devoured the wool blankets.
There was always enough coldness to go around.
Bugs always favored us and were ever present.
The risk of avalanches was common. Spermatozoids
Dried up on stomachs around here or vanished
In the drain forever. Sometimes they froze to death
On the snow white lacy linen, heirloom by the way.
Good people could have come from them,
But fate did not will it. Poems were born and buried
Here, some of which will always remain unfinished.
Dreams came and went into the darkness beneath
The tiles. Entire armies of candles burned down,
Though they were innocent; and many an illusion
Proved to be stillborn. But a child, we nevertheless
Begot it, a boy whom we loved and will have it rough
In his life with the kind of father that excessively smokes
And inordinately palavers. Camouflaged poets passed
Through here every which way in search of words,
Of metaphors, all sorts of folk as well as the shadows
Of stylized crosswalk markings made of metal.
Mahalia Jackson and Charlie Parker often sang,
Played a gloomy blues in honor of the dead
Things in the house. Organ recitals, too, often
Uplifted the silence and bewilderment that at times
Beset the place. For prayer, my dear friends, I do
Confess there simply wasn’t enough faith. There
Were moments – like now – in which death was
Our omnipresent neighbor. Yesterday I ever so hastily
And in mourning on the account of my shoes having
Passed away I laid two bottles of Murfatlar to rest.
Television frequently tortured me unconscious,
Berated me, scratched me, spat into my face.
That I’ve got away so far with my skin unblemished
And angry – a miracle! Mrs. Wine Bottle, my
Honorable Sir Ashtrays. This place has had its share
Of carousing, poetry writing, and debating, until
The clock stopped ticking. I am aware of the fact
That public speakers often engage in oral intercourse,
Lose sight of their occasion in their ecstasy
In the face of the nonsense, for stuffed with nonsense
Are the world’s pay envelopes as well as friends
– I’ve witnessed it – how rapidly it is forgotten, as you
Now, my dear penny loafers with your synthetic soles
And slanted heels. Please excuse my digression, the
Beginning, but look here: here I am writing and rubbing
And shrieking and can do no other. You, Penny Loafers,
You are dear to me, now as ever. Not because of the
Cowhide leather, but because you stood your ground
Faithfully with me – and not by order of the state
Or the church. In the name of the movement! Through
Dust and dirt and early death in this region you’ve
Carried me and never only once did your leather warp
Or shrink opportunely or did you duplicitously run off.
Never once did you grumble or seal a pact with the
General opinion according to which only a dead poet
Is a good poet. Often you were up against your period
And periodicals – unpolished, but joyous. No promise
Could tempt you into taking only one step towards
Giving up. My feet were your gods! And I am, praise be
To my feet, satisfied all around with both of you.
You’ve been good shoes, reliable and also courageous
Enough to openly and roughly rub along the asphalt
Paving the wrong paths. You’ve been as thick as thieves,
And stood by me, until death now parts us: never did
You step into dig dirt or enter a political party and one,
I think, was the other’s brother! The dust beneath these
Long unpolished tiles, may it be gracious unto thee, may
It grant you the eternal rest that I am refused, for
Somewhere, my beloved shoes, down there, God must
Exist, namely the abysmal God, the God of Penny Loafers
And of Poets, the God of those who fate has separated,
For please forgive me, you two, I’ve trampled onto you
Like a barbarian. Nevertheless you’ve warmed my feet,
Whenever I stepped onto the ice, you haven’t pinched me,
Nor have you bothered me, you haven’t rubbed my heels sore.
Stepping into you, always went hand in hand of being
Uplifted by a few centimeters, before I went right through
The middle. Peace be to your leather, for I owe you
Infinite gratitude and thanks. Abroad – it is true! –
I could never show it to you, and I did not succeed
In sparing you the shoemaker. Dear Penny Loafers,
In deep mourning and brink of tears,
Without a clergyman and barefoot I am standing here
In front of your and my remains, and without knowing
What to do next. The moment, at which we part, is near.
We must hurry, for look, the sky is as grey as a mouse
And soon snow will fall from the ceiling once again. And
The gentleman up there soon again will want to wear
Down my heels with infidelity, unkindness, and lies.
How should I avert him doing so? We are tiny and tired
And convinced that we are not to be convinced of that
For which we bear witness. Take us into your arms one
Last time, mourners, sweet homeland, band of these shoes!
translated by Paul-Henri Campbell
»Lustful Things – Geile Sachen!« is an online collection of contemporary German-language poetry in English translation. All poems were taken from issue no. 22 of the German poetry magazine DAS GEDICHT, focused on the Poetry of Things. New English translations by Paul-Henri Campbell as well as the German originals are published here every Wednesday. All poems of this online-collection will also be published in a special print-edition. In order to read previous poems in this series, click here.
»Lustful Things – Geile Sachen!« ist eine Online-Sammlung zeitgenössischer deutschsprachiger Dinggedichte in englischer Übersetzung. Alle Texte sind Band 22 der Zeitschrift DAS GEDICHT entnommen. Jeden Mittwoch erscheint ein neues Gedicht, das von Paul-Henri Campbell ins Englische übertragen wurde, zusammen mit dem deutschen Original. Die Beiträge dieser Online-Anthologie gibt es auch als Sonderausgabe in Buchform. Alle bereits erschienenen Folgen von »Lustful Things – Geile Sachen!« finden Sie hier.