Ingeborg Bachmann, Two Poems

Anselm Kiefer, Emanation 1984-86

[My translations of two poems by Ingeborg Bachmann:1926-1973; Austrian, also essays, short stories, radio plays, librettos, translations; influenced philosophically by Heidegger and Wittgenstein, poetically by Rilke, Celan, Eich and Sachs; pre-eminent German woman poet in the fifties, member of the influential Gruppe 47; ‘confessional’ style; stopped writing poetry in the 60s; died in a fire in her Rome apartment; ‘Poetry like bread? That bread would have to grind between the teeth and reawaken the hunger before it stills it. And this poetry will have to be sharp with insight and bitter with longing in order to be able to stir the sleep of people. For we are asleep, are sleepers, from fear of having to look at ourselves and our world’]

The Time of Debt Delayed

Harder days are coming.
The time of debt delayed, revocable,
is becoming visible on the horizon.
Soon you will have to buckle your shoe
and drive the dogs back to the marsh farms.
For the fishes’ entrails
have grown cold in the wind.
The lupins’ light burns sparsely.
Your gaze lays a track in the fog:
the revocable time of delayed debt
is becoming visible on the horizon.

Over there your lover sinks into sand,
it rises around her streaming hair,
it cuts her short,
it orders her to be silent,
it finds her mortal
and willing to part
after every embrace.

Don’t turn around.
Buckle your shoe.
Drive back the dogs.
Throw the fish into the sea.
Light of the lupins!

Harder days are coming.

Fog Land

In winter my lover
is among the animals of the wood.
That I must return before dawn
the vixen knows and laughs.
How the clouds tremble! And on my
snow collar falls
a layer of brittle ice.

In winter my lover is
a tree among trees and invites
the luckless crows
into her beautiful branches. She knows
that the wind, at twilight,
lifts her evening gown rigid with rime
and chases me home.

In winter my lover
is among the fish and dumb.
A slave to the waters the line
of her fins moves from within,
I stand on the shore and watch
her diving and turning
till ice floes drive me away.

And again struck by the predatory cry
of the bird that stiffens its wings
above me, I fall
on the open field: she plucks
the hens and throws me a white
wishbone. I wear it around my throat
and walk off through the bitter down.

Faithless is my lover,
I know, sometimes she hovers away
to town on her high heels,
kisses the glasses in the bars
deeply on the mouth with a straw,
finds words for everyone.
But I don’t understand this language.

Fog land I have seen,
fog heart I have eaten.

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~ by Peter Lach-Newinsky on July 20, 2011.

One Response to “Ingeborg Bachmann, Two Poems”

  1. […] Bachmann’s “Fog Land” begins and ends with mist. The middle, however, is suspiciously sharp and clear. The speaker […]

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