Spoor of Desire: Selected Poems
is available for $16.00 from FootHills Publishing, P.O. Box 68, Kanona NY 14856 or see www.foothillspublishing.com.

Tourist Snapshots is available for $8.95 from Randy Fingland, CC Marimbo, P.O. Box 933, Berkeley CA 94701 or see www.ccmarimbo.com.

Dada Poetry: An Introduction was published by Nirala Publications. It may be ordered on Amazon.com for $25 plus shipping. American buyers may order a copy from me for $23 including shipping.

The other books are also available from the author William Seaton. Write seaton@frontiernet.net.

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Monday, September 1, 2014

A Mixed Bag of German Translations

These move basically back in history. Most have brief historical notes attached which in some cases have only the most tenuous reference to the poem that follows.

1. During the Soviet era, Uwe Kolbe published a poem in a government-sanctioned anthology which contained an acrostic undetected by censors: "EUREM HELDENTUM WIDME ICH EINEN ORGASMUS / EUCH MÄCHTIGE GREISE ZERFETZE DIE TÄGLICHE REVOLUTION" ("To your heroism I dedicate an orgasm/ you powerful greybeards the daily revolution shall slash").

Museum Day in Sofia

The poet’s holiest parts
were preserved in a vitrine:
pale organs between two panes.
How my heart beat when I saw his
in the glass, and how my mind
confronted his! until . . .
all at once I found myself
old and at peace and ready to die.

2. Joachim Ringelnatz (the pen name of Hans Bötticher) was condemned by the Nazis already in 1933 as a degenerate artist.


They’ve got them in the shop
in an intimate tank.
There they may bathe
outwardly a bit frazzled, a little raggedy,
but innardly they seem
ever so much alive.
They murmur magic-worker’s spells
(as though they could thereby clean their water).
Quiet they masticate mayonnaise in their muzzles
and dream of being shaved against the grain,
and then cleaned and killed and heated and garnished
on a silver dish.
They end up in rich men’s bellies,
where the funniest of their bones
may go down the wrong way.
Their souls, I think,
are just like wood-lice
doing deep knee bends.
Yes and in Kassel there was very little else
either to excite or trouble me.

3. Georg Trakl’s poem about a site of slaughter takes a place by Wilfred Owens’ horrifying WWI poems. After attending the soldiers in Grodek, Trakl tried to shoot himself. Though he was prevented, he died shortly thereafter from a cocaine overdose.


Evenings, the autumn forests ring
with the death-guns’ sound, the golden meadows
and blue lakes over which the sun
darkly passes, till night embraces
the dying fighters, the mad moans
of their lacerated mouths.
But in silence! over the cow-pasture!
a red cloud gathers, wherein dwells a furious god.
The spilt blood itself. The coolness of moonshine.
Every street is turning to black putrefaction!
Under the golden branches of the night and stars
her sister’s shadow shimmies through the silent grove
to greet the spirits, the heroes, the bloody heads,
and faintly the reed’s tones, autumn’s darkling flute.
O proud mourning! For the altars you once had
the hot flame of the mind feeds today a monstrous pain,
the descendants yet unborn.

4. Carl Zuckmayer was a WWI veteran, who came to the US as an exile and returned to Europe in the fifties.

To the red wine stains on the tablecloth of a French restaurant

I look at you with gravity and joy,
and push the plate aside that tried to hide
you and toast with my first drink
the man that dined before me in this seat.

From the wine’s furthest lilac reach
your soft daydreamy drinker’s gaze looks out;
the shape’s a silhouette of a place abroad,
Madagascar maybe, or Mozambique.

My place is strewn with golden crumbs
of bread he mindfully broke and ate.
You land of lovely sounds and Burgundy’s bouquet,
are you still like that kingdom that once was,
whose people paid their tax in kegs of wine?

You land of latter days whose evening sun slips low
whose light breaks bright through a ripe tongue’s prism!
Where geniuses and shamans and customs men make art,
till god himself forgets where heaven is.

I saw you stuck with steel and dripping blood,
I lay against your body in fear and pain –
It may have been this amiable overweight sommelier
that tried so hard to shoot me.

Did I not drink at your fountain of tears?
I underwent with you pain unto death.
Sister land, I kneel down at your door,
and kiss each stain of blood and wine.

He pours me more. It glitters at the bottle’s mouth.
So, drink, tablecloth! Drink up this offering!
A foreigner salutes this charming hour,
and then heads off northward, toward the fog.

5. From the immortal Christian Morgenstern.

A Knee

A lone knee through the landscape went.
It’s just one knee and nothing else!
It’s not a tree! It’s not a tent!
It’s just one knee and nothing else!

In war one time a man was shot,
shot up from toe to face.
The knee alone remained unhurt –
as if it were a sign of grace.

And then through all the world it went
It’s just one knee and nothing else!
It’s not a tree! It’s not a tent!
It’s just one knee and nothing else!

6. Heinrich Heine published several poems, including Die schlesischen Weber, in Karl Marx's journal Vorwärts.


The lovely sun
has sunk in peace into the sea;
the water’s waves have only the hue
of the dark night,
though sunset strews yet
some golden sparks,
and the roar of tidal force
pushes white waves to the shore.
They frisk so happy and so fast
like woolly herds of lambs
driven home at night
by a shepherd boy with a song.

“The sun, it is so fine!”
So said my friend after standing silent long,
the one that walked the beach with me,
and half-laughing and half-sad,
he insisted this was so: “The sun,” he said,
“is a lovely lady. She married the old sea-god
for convenience’ sake.
She wanders every day in joy
through heaven’s heights, resplendent in purple,
glittering with diamonds,
beloved by all, admired by every
creature of the earth,
for all earth’s creatures love
the glory, the warmth of her gaze,
though at night, depressed and driven,
she enters again
the wet house, the barren arms
of her aged spouse.”

“Believe me,” added then my friend,
and laughed and sighed and laughed again,
“they have down there the tenderest of marriages.
They’re sleeping there or else they squabble,
So that the sea must bubble up on top,
And the seaman hears in the sounds of the waves
The old one shouting at his wife:
‘You big fat cosmic whore,
beaming bitch,
the whole day-long you’re bright for all the rest,
and at night for me, you’re cold and dropping with fatigue.’
And after such a talking-to,
you’ll understand, that proud sun
breaks into tears, and she laments her wretchedness,
and she laments so loud and long, the sea-god
gives up all hope, jumps from his bed,
swims swiftly up to ocean’s top,
some air and maybe sense as well to grab.”

“Last night I caught a sight of him myself,
emerged from the sea down to his breast.
He wore a yellow flannel jacket,
a lily-white night-cap,
and a wrinkled face.”

7. Edward Mörike was a leading Romantic who wrote lyrics so popular many were made into songs in both popular and concert hall stylings.

It’s here!

Spring lets loose its pennants of blue –
they fly again in the wind –
sweet and well-known scents drift too
suggestive on the land.
Violets in dreams are wound –
tomorrow their blooms will bring..
Listen! The far-off harper’s sound!
You’re it – o spring!
It’s you I hear!

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