Christoph Meckel, Two Poems
[My translations of two poems by contemporary German poet and graphic artist Christoph Meckel: b. 1935; also creative non-fiction, novels, radio plays; early work influenced by Karl Krolow and Guenter Eich; ‘the poem is the place of truth that has been wounded to death’]
When once the trees have been counted and the foliage
leaf by leaf taken to the bureaus
we will know what earth was worth.
To dive into rivers full of water
and gather cherries on a morning in June
will be a privilege, not for many.
Gladly will we remember the used up
world when time merged
with monsters and angels, the sky
an open flue for the smoke
and birds flew in swarms over the freeways
(we stood in the garden and our conversations
held back time, the dying of trees
fleeting legends of nettles).
Shut up. Another earth, another house.
(A hawk’s wing in the cupboard. A leaf. A water.)
We, Rulers Beyond Borders in the Land of Lies,
we, creators of all truth through fraud,
we, wardens of all magic, let the question be posed:
When shall moonlight be carried off
and our nightmare lie quite in the dark,
when shall the whale fly over mountains
and when the wind strike root in the clouds,
when shall the snow tree leaf out in black?
When shall the toad fly? When the snail sings.
When shall the rock swim? When the fish drowns.
When shall the sloth walk on water,
when shall we baptise the snake goldfish,
when to twilight shall we be displayed
and praised to all underworlds
and put to the use of our dreams,
when shall we live as our shadows?
We, wardens of dark sun belvederes,
we, rulers nameless in estate and honour,
We, star of the world of wonders, let it be declared:
Clouds shall strike roots in the sky,
the fish is to fly before our windows
and snow to lie at the bottom of the sea,
the whale to drown in water
and mountains sink into the sky,
we shall give clear water to fairy tales
and our truth shall be equal to the lie,
we, creators of our dreams, let it be known:
The world of wonders has been demolished.