Wolf Biermann, Two Songs/Poems

[My translations of two songs/poems by Wolf Biermann, b. 1936 in Hamburg; father communist worker murdered in Auschwitz; emigrated to the GDR in 1953; socialist singer-songwriter, banned in GDR; deprived of GDR citizenship after concert in FRG in 1976 initiating petition and exodus of GDR writers and artists; tradition of Villon, Heine, Brecht, early preference for popular forms like ballad, folk song, fairy tale; later turn to personal introspection and more conservative political position. The photo above is from a Melbourne laneway in 2010.]

And When We Arrived at the Shore

And when we arrived at the shore
And were long sitting in the boat
Then it was we saw the sky
Most beautifully in the water
And through the pear trees flew
A few little fish. The plane swam
Straight across the lake and gently
Crashed into the willow trunk
‒ into the willow trunk

What shall ever become of our dreams
In this torn land
The wounds just won’t seal
Under the filthy bandage
And what shall become of our friends
And what of you, and what of me –
I’d much prefer to be elsewhere
And much prefer to stay
‒ much prefer to stay

Of Me and My Chubby Girl among the Spruce

Just a few quick jumps from the path
I lay her white flesh in the grass
Noonday sun burned through the spruce trees
As I measured her with my measure
Beetles crawled under us, armies
Of ants happily broke into us
To bathe roughly between belly and belly
Or wander between leg and leg

Hordes of mosquitoes got drunk as hell
Stung me for I swam on top
Till a cloudburst, a quick bright one,
Took us up into its good arms
Water drops heavy as grapes fell
Lazily down onto our hot skin
And the wondrously mild gush from above
Did not ruin our great death

When finally I lay flat on my back
My eyes wearily flipped upwards
And saw a jet fighter floating
Through a swollen hole in the clouds
Floated on, wrote a gentle curve
Right down into the high blue
The sun again broke through the spruce trees
And we steamed in the afternoon dew


~ by Peter Lach-Newinsky on February 7, 2012.

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