Ursula Krechel, Three Poems

[My translations of German poet Ursula Krechel: b. 1947; also short stories, plays, radio plays, children’s poems, essays; feminist member of the 68 movement]

Hymn on the Women of the Middle Class

Oh, this restrained beauty of the women
of the middle class. The inimitable
fall of their gowns. Their controlled way
of placing one foot in front of the other and never
a step back.

Oh, these swinging perms
at their temples and ears, this almost
accidental-seeming order in their homes,
these balanced sentences they utter
when asked.

Oh, their knowing smile at the foolish things
their children do, their polite but assertive
tone to the cleaning lady, their little thrill
at cheaply buying a silk scarf that counts
even when bought dearly.

Oh, their luminous red nail polish, the quiet moons
of their fingernails on which nothing burns,
the discrete red of their lips, the constant
red of their toe nails already lighting up mornings
for the evening.

Oh, their tasty, digestible meals
served on tasteful plates,
their tablecloths, chandeliers, candleholders,
the silver, the cut crystal, not to mention
the rustic salad cutlery.

Oh, this burning desire to belong,
to always poke the gentle curve of their noses into the right
things, the fine handkerchiefs,
the aromas carefully chosen for the present
occasion and mood.

Oh, the miniature orange trees and azaleas,
their little cotton spencers, silk blouses,
cashmere jumpers, ski outfits, little leather jackets,
their pairs of finches and angora cats and
the poodle’s grave in the garden.

Oh, and the secret lust between their legs,
their beautiful groaning, panting, sweating, all that
carefully maintained surrender and all those attempts
at once more changing oneself for the better
at the hairdresser’s.

Oh, their attacks of melancholy, gaiety,
their lonely thoughts when the husband
is still away on business or wherever,
their starting at the slightest sound
in the stillness of the night.

Oh, their lovely little evenings
by candle light, their infallible feeling
for who is suited to them and who isn’t, the ability
to conform, listen, contribute
to everything that is talked about.

Oh, their slowly diminishing strength, the panic
at the empty house, the grown up children,
their justified doubts about everyone’s loyalty,
their sickliness in the darkened bedroom
in broad daylight.

Oh, and time and again the matter of fact way
they get up again, sit between
all stools, bite their lips, shake
hands as if everything were the same as always
then and now.

Now it’s no longer

Now it’s no longer
that we, tired, blisters on our feet
dirty and wet from the water cannons
come home, eat, drink
and off again to the movies.

Now it’s no longer
we think at least
the street belongs to us.
And the future of course
now or later, but soon.

Now it’s no longer
we recognise comrades
by their haircuts, their laughter,
pat each other on the back, publicly
we may have changed.
Now it’s no longer
where two or three are gathered
in my name I am among them,
educate, strengthen, support
completely without question.

Now it’s no longer
we go at everything head first,
upright, know answers before we’re asked,
leave tracks, memory tapes
like snails of dry sand.

Now it’s no longer
we can immediately tell
every worker leaving the station
with his cap what his problem is
and our landlord too.

Now we suddenly have time
for long discussions in bed.
Sweaty but cold down to our toes
we for the first time see the whites
of our eyes and are afraid.

Outside

The foxy lamb is already howling with the wolves,
policemen are walking around in animal hides and mating
with twin-engine saws. The grapes of tired wrath
are rotting among fallen leaves under piles of flyers.
Jays are croaking, no woodpecker is pecking wood.
The lambs are licking up sump oil. None of them eat from your hand.

Road-sweeping machines are crawling from the valleys throwing up dust.
Strengthened, the lambs are resting, bleating into spring.
None of them eat from your hand. The world smells
of soap, curdled milk and shortness of breath,
the noise of the woods drives us home, heads like sheep.
Cinema seats are collapsing, mossy mattresses hang in the sky.

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~ by Peter Lach-Newinsky on March 11, 2012.

2 Responses to “Ursula Krechel, Three Poems”

  1. It is regretable that the original German texts of the poems have not been provided. Even our appreciation of the translations would be enhanced if the German texts were available in a parallel column..

    It is also not clear wheer the German poet is identified whether it is the poet who is also the writer of prose pieces or whether the translator has translated prose items by the German author in addition to the poems provided.

    • Hi Jim, thanks for the comment and I’ll try one last time: obviously, to print the original German poem could very well be a potential copyright problem. I would have also thought it was very clear that the prose comment/summary in square brackets is very obviously a note-like intro by me; it does say ‘my translations of….’; where there are quotations by the poets themselves in those intro sections there are clear quotation marks supplied to mark them off… Cheers, P.

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