Fall 2008

Table of Contents - Vol. IV, No. 3


Poetry    Translations    Fiction    Essays   

Günter Eich


Think About It

Think about it, man is the enemy of man
and he meditates on his own annihilation.
Think about it always, think about it now
as you look at the overcast sky
this moment in April,
as you believe you hear growth like a gentle rustling,
the girls are cutting thistels
under the lark’s song,
think about it at this very moment:

as you sample wine in the cellars of Randersacken,
or squeeze oranges in the gardens of Alicante,
as you fall asleep in the Hotel Mirarmar near the beach of Taorina,
or light a candle on All Soul’s Day in the churchyard at Feuchtwangen,
as you haul the nets, if you’re a fisherman, over the Dogger Bank,
or in Detroit remove a screw from a conveyer belt,
as you set out plants in the rice fields of Setzuan,
or ride a mule across the Andes—
think about it!

Think about it when a hand strokes you tenderly,
think about it when your wife hugs you,
think about it when your children laugh at your side.

Think about it, after the great destructions
everyone will try to prove their innocence.
Think about it:
Korea and Bikini aren’t on any map,
they are in your heart.
Think about it, you are responsible for every atrocity
committed far away from you—



Wake up, because your dreams are bad!
Remain awake, because the gruesomeness comes closer.

It also comes to you, who live far away
from the places where blood is poured,
also to you and your afternoon nap,
where you are reluctantly disturbed.
If it doesn’t come today, it will come tomorrow,
that much is certain.

“Oh, pleasant sleep
on the cushions with red flowers,
a Christmas present from Anita which she embroidered for three weeks,
oh, pleasant sleep,
when the roast was fat and the vegetables tender.
One thinks while dozing off during the newsreel from last night:
paschal lambs, awakening nature, the opening of the gaming house in Baden-Baden,
Cambridge defeated Oxford by 2.5 lengths—
this is enough to occupy the brain.

Oh, this soft cushion of first-rate down!
On it one forgets the annoyances of this world, that news, for example:
Because the abortion defendant said in her defense:
The woman, mother of seven children, came to me with a baby,
for whom she had no diapers and who
was wrapped in newsprint.
Now, these are problems of the court, not ours.
They can do nothing about it if someone lies a little better than another,
and whatever comes our grandsons will have to fight it out.”

“Ah, are you already asleep? Guard yourself well, my friend!
The river already runs up to the fences, and the posts are set.”

No, do not sleep while the files of the world are active!
Be distrustful of power that has allegedly been acquired on your behalf!
Wake up and realize that your heart is not empty, just because
the emptiness of your heart is counted on!
Do what is futile, sing the songs no one expects to come from your mouth!
Be uncomfortable, be sand, not oil in the gears of the world!


Messages of the Rain

News that was destined for me,
drummed out from rain to rain,
from slate to tile roof,
introduced like an illness,
smuggled goods, delivered to him
who has no wish to receive it—

Beyond the wall the metal windowsill shakes,
rattling letters that fit together
and the rain talks
in a language I once believed in,
no one knows but me—

In dismay I hear
the messages of desperation,
the messages of poverty
and the messages of reproach.
It sickens me to think they are address to me
since I feel no guilt,

and I say out loud
I do not fear the rain and its accusations
nor the one who sent them to me,
and in good time
I will go out and give him my answer.



Flight of pigeons over the plowed fields—
a wing-beat that is quicker than beauty.
It cannot catch up to them, but lingers
as a discomfort in the heart.

As if the laughter of pigeons could also be heard
before the dovecotes, the dwarfed dwellings painted green,
and I begin to think
if flight is important to them,
how they regard the earthward glance
and how they value the pecking of grain,
and recognize the hawk.

I advise myself to be afraid of pigeons.
You are not their master, I say, when you throw them food,
when you fasten messages to their legs,
when you breed new ornamental forms, new colors,
new crests, or tufts of feathers above the feet.
Place no trust in power,
then you’ll not be surprised
when you discover you are insignificant,

that hidden kingdoms exist beside those of your kind,
languages without sounds that cannot be studied,
authority without power and unassailable,
that decisions are made based on the flight of pigeons.


Taking Stock

This is my cap,
this is my coat,
here are my shaving things
in the linen bag.

my plate, my mug,
I have scratched my name
into the tin plate.

Scratched it here
with this precious nail,
which I retrieve
before desirous eyes.

In the bread bag are
a pair of wool socks
and something that I
betray to no one,

so that it serves as a cushion
at night for my head.
The cardboard lies here
between me and the earth.

I love
the pencil lead the most:
each day it writes verses
I thought up the night before.

This is my notebook,
this is my tent,
this is my towel,
this is my sewing thread.


Where I Live

When I open the window,
fish swim into the room.
Herrings.  It seems like
a swarm of them pass by. 
They play among the pear trees, too.
Most, however,
stay back in the woods,
by the nurseries and gravel pits.
They are annoying.  But even more annoying are the sailors
(and their higher ups, helmsmen, captains),
who often come to the open window
and ask for a match to light their foul tobacco.
No question about it, I’ve got to move.


© Jim Doss



Poetry    Translations    Fiction    Essays   

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