Sarah Kirsch, Four Poems

Barbara Hepworth, Sculptures in Yorkshire Sculpture Park

My translations of four poems by Sarah Kirsch, one of Germany’s best contemporary poets, probably the best female one.

[Sarah Kirsch, b. 1935; also creative non-fiction, radio plays and children’s books; perhaps Germany’s most well-known living female poet; after signing a protest against the exiling of singer/songwriter Wolf Biermann emigrated from GDR to FRG 1977; lives alone in the North Sea-dominated countryside of Schleswig-Holstein]

Breath Pause

the sky is smoke grey ash grey mouse grey
lead grey stone grey in the land
of sudden showers of continuous thunder
the bloated meadows the gardens
rotting and dogs during the night
have grown fins they dive
after every silver spoon that
falls from the window when instantly
portly marmalades are being made
in kitchens flown through in fine weather
by farmers’ wives with hay in their pants
steam in their bums on turnip fields at noon.

In the Country

Mornings I feed the swans evenings the cats in between
I walk over grass pass by the ruined orchards
Pear trees grow in rusty ovens, peach trees
Collapse into grass, the fences have long surrendered, iron and wood
Everything rotten and the woods embrace the garden in a lilac bush

There I stand with wet feet close to the bushes
It has rained a long time, and I see the ink blue umbels, the sky
Is spotty like blotting paper
I’m dizzy with colour and smells but the bees
Stay in the hive even the gaping mouths of the nettle blossoms
Don’t pull them over, perhaps the queen
Suddenly died this morning the oaks

Breed gall wasps, thick red balls will probably soon burst
I’d love to lighten the trees but there are too many little apples
They effortlessly reach the crowns and cleevers
Grab me, I distinguish reeds and sedges so much nature

The birds and black snails and everywhere grass grass that
Moistens my feet fat-green it squanders itself
Even on the tip it hides glass grows in broken mattresses I flee
onto the artificial cinder path and will presumably soon
return to my concrete city here you’re not in the world
spring doesn’t let up in its bottomless greed, stuffs
eyes and ears with grass the newspapers are empty
before they arrive here the wood is in full leaf and knows
nothing about fire


Exuberantly the green changes
From lighter to darker loveliness
Strongly the sun now extracts
The light from the trees
Before it slinks off, the flowers
Village cocks in the morning, welcome
The evening with velvet colours
In the floods of ripe fields
Tardy tractors lurch
The sky grows plum blue
And on the tongue still burns
The bite into the fly agaric
O you good sunken cities
Here things are cheerful and happy
Even the dark begins
In glow and splendour.


Once they’re supposed
To have formed forests and birds
Also called dragonflies little
Hen-like beings that
Could sing looked down.


~ by Peter Lach-Newinsky on May 7, 2011.

2 Responses to “Sarah Kirsch, Four Poems”

  1. […] translated by Peter Lach-Newinsky […]

    • many thanks Dubliners, and i enjoyed muchly the study in grey preceding the Kirsch translation, an almost masochistic longing arose for a european winter…

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