Volker Sielaff, Three Poems
[My translations of contemporary German poet Volker Sielaff: b. 1966; also essays; first poetry collection 2003]
As a village kid I grew up with flies, their
humming. Before tiny window panes they just
fell down at some point, and there was no one
who then wanted to sweep them away, for days
they just lay there with their lifeless legs, held only
by a bloodless body no longer able to support them
in the gutter of the toilet’s window sill where they
shone strongly for a good time yet, lead blue or
sulphur yellow, while the wing music of the others
merrily continued…, like today between the cherry tree
and the sky, at half the tree’s height, while
opinions were being handed around, I switched
off, sluggish afternoon with coffee and cake, my
gaze sideways at the rocking up and down as if
they were all hanging on one invisible thread – here
under this blue that has nothing more to say:
a swarm of flies weaving its glass
net in the summer air.
Days afterwards his soles are still red.
He has gone through iron, upright, hard at his heels
still the beast that’s after him,
the winged one or the one with the great stride,
elephant ears or grief in its face.
He dreams of the lynx, the eagle, the bear.
Everywhere. Puts on the mask, hard at his heels
a shining as from a restless star.
An animal is dreaming itself. At one point
it calls out to him as if he’s never been away. Equal
among equals. While the elephant
pays his dead brother a visit: grieving
a wobbling of the ears. Language?
Hamann believed it came from God.
Not the ice nights and not the superlatives.
We feel with our hands, with our hands we wipe
our brows – the drops of rain the drops
of exuberance. We absorb what remained
of the clouds. We create with our hands, with our hands
we touch. It’s a morning made of weather-loneliness,
golden letters and superlatives.
You’re exaggerating says this one movement
of your hand. The year turns over its pages, we call it
day or week or month, we call it
season. Spring emerges
like a bird from an egg, the trees
begin to sweat. Something exudes
out of our pores like a thought
of ice nights.
Spring is an egg knocking its own head off,
a thought in an incubator, corn of rice, corn of hail,
it scatters itself at the right time.
The ice nights burst from the edges,
melancholy bursts from the edges.
Spring that is
this poem too, are words like little
oval leaves or words like big
oval leaves; toothed words, dandelion-
words. Spring emerges from an egg like a
We feel with our hands.
Not the ice nights. And not the superlatives.