Wolf Wondratscheck, Five Poems

Edward Hopper, People in the Sun (1960)

[My translations of five poems by Wolf Wondratscheck: b. 1943; also creative prose, radio plays, essays; his four poetry books of the 1970s were almost pop phenomena in Germany, selling over a 100,000 copies]

Men and Women

The women I met needed men.
I met men who needed women.
But the women were alone
and the men were lonely.
Sometimes it worked.
Sometimes it even worked without alcohol.
Sometimes a few laughed and loved each other
a while, a night or a year.
But in seventh heaven only Russians
and Americans.
I saw dead victors
and made-up losers,
those without hope, the despairing,
I saw men and women.
I saw women waiting for love
and men waiting for women.
I saw men and women looking for people
with different genitals than those
of men and women.
I met men and women
who thought this difference old fashioned
and went back to puberty
with alien hormones in their bodies
and looked for other fairy tales than the one
going back to Paradise.
In all the polls tenderness comes out on top…
but tender women, tender men…
where could that lead?
And the men were tender now only with themselves
and the women remained women even in their heads
and naughty only in their minds,
an old story, older than
old love letters.

And the men ‒ are there any left?
And the women ‒ where are they?

What is it,
this animal,
made of men and women,
and unborn?

A few men talk.
A few women give birth.
The victims are born with a scream
and shunted off to live and die on
in the echoes of dismay.
It is the most beautiful war.
Brutal love and romantic violence
and happiness coldly crashes
into the sun.

I met men who needed women.
The women I met needed men.
Beginning and end repeat
like dead seasons.
After every love affair the next memory
and afterwards the forgetting
that never ends.

And at some point we’re all standing together
at a bar or a bus stop
or a window
and drinking
and waiting
and falling.

How I grew up

I didn’t think about things then.
When it rained I thought now it’s raining
all over the world. No wind and I thought
now the planes are falling down, and the apples.
Picking apples I saw my aunt’s arse
and thought now they’ll put you in the loony bin.
I sat in the woods, hated all flowers
and wanted to become old.
I only read books I didn’t understand.
I was no bigger than a cowboy’s hip
when I felt something and thought of love
and did it with my hand
for the first time.
It hurt.
Dreams made my nose bleed.
I made jokes, shat past the pot
and buggered up my Sunday shoes playing football.
That was the era there were still hunger artists.
Suddenly I wanted to die for no reason,
looked in my head for a pair of hands
to shake the hunger artist’s hand with;
even then I was a romantic,
sat in the woods, hated all flowers
and wanted to be a poet –

but nothing came of it.

Empty Beer Garden

Here you were already sitting
in other barbarian times
with a beer and a
world history.

Now it’s raining.

Tables and chairs are standing there
emitting eternity value.

A thunder storm is answering the sighs
of the contented.

The end of the world
is not coming to an end.

A stillness is entering the mountains
and monks walking over paths
as if over a river current.

I’m too old to be a boxing pro

Slowly it was getting evening
and slowly dark.

A girl called;
a girl, or as you would say,
another one of those.

She was AFRAID of going mad.
I don’t know, she said.
I don’t know either, I said.
We talked about the weather
and Zadek’s Shakespeare production, right,
and about the advantages of carrot juice.
I listened and got tired.
I thought of lonely, impotent, cold men
dreaming at night of other women
in some yard entrance somewhere
in their head,
they’re AFRAID of going mad too;
tenderness is like a climbing plant,
it’ll pull you down under.
I don’t know, she said.
The sky was cloudy,
no stars to be seen,
the men coming home from work
were already sleeping, separated from their wives
by more than sleep.
AFRAID? I waited for three hours
for Ali’s fight against Spinks and crept
into bed after Ali’s defeat,
tired and old like an ex-world champ.

I lay in bed
and outside it grew light,
it stayed dark.

Last Stop

I stood at the bus stop
and waited;
and when the bus came I got in
and waited again.
In front of me a girl was making out with her guy
and because I had nothing else to do I watched
her hanging around his neck and sometimes
looking back at me looking forward to her.
I stood in the bus,
rocked out the street with my legs
and thought of nothing at all;
at some point I got out, went home
and thought
‘there’s nothing makes a man lonelier
than the soft laugh at another guy’s ear.’

~ by Peter Lach-Newinsky on January 14, 2012.

One Response to “Wolf Wondratscheck, Five Poems”

  1. These may be fine translations but without the German text it is not possible to assess them. It is difficult to understand why a translator would resist providing the original language text side by side with the translation.

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