Today I passed two cemeteries.
One lay coldly under a scorching sun
and said with all its wooden crosses: No!
The other wooed with many-handed maples
and bird song for its polished marble.
I wasn’t sure. Both had a lot in their favour.
Even the dead didn’t help me much,
those forgotten poets and professors of chemistry,
their studied seriousness confused me.
It was then I felt the pencil in my coat pocket,
my travelling companion, and I shrank away.
Do not lean out
Even the last train is crowded
as though people were forced to flee.
The conductor asks to be allowed through.
Thank you, he says, thank you, thank you,
all now equal before him.
Outside, the villages take to the road
bringing their animals with them.
A wind has come along with us
in search of fire.
A man stands at the open window
and smokes. Here’s the mighty chorus
rehearsing in the dark, unwearied.
Thank you, thank you, thank you very much.
The hotel is closed, I’m
the last guest. Sometimes
birds check in, you can hear them
hobble quietly along the roof tiles.
Day by day my departure is deferred,
my stay here yet again extended.
The building has cracks, you are warned
not to enter. Tomorrow I’ll move
into the cellar, to the supplies.
When you’re entitled to nothing
you can live off it for a long time.
Birds chased away
The house was too cold,
my skin-deep sleep
couldn’t warm the shingles.
I had rowed across the lake
with the last of the birds,
silence had put them to flight.
A visit to the graveyard
A grave is opened, with both legs
the workers stand inside the hole, looking
up to me from deep below. Slowly the earth
yields its secrets, brought to light
by reddened hands. Lumpy clay, snails,
wood and a few bones, nothing
to frighten us. Had I expected more?
As a child I wished to know what disappears
together with the dead, never again
to surface, the sacred things of life.
I walk on, my shadow of its own
accord searching for other corpses,
teetering like a sleepwalker
on the green ridge between the graves.
Reviewing the situation
Seeing how things are developing
it’s time to make plans
for the year ahead and the year past.
A book must be read,
the compassion quota lowered.
We don’t want to die by mistake,
we say and shake our heads.
Our fears are misconceptions,
that’s for certain, the others say.
What is certain? In the dark we
consult our old dictionaries
for the precise meaning of happiness.
After the walk
We list the things we saw:
dogs; old people; a stream without water;
a church sharply gasping for air.
Daring birds busy with a tragedy
hidden from view. A straggling butterfly,
it must be dead by now.
I’ve forgotten what we talked about.
It wasn’t about art.
The eleventh commandment
Translated from the German by Hans-Christian Oeser
“People chased away” /photo by: Magdalena Delkova
This post is also available in: Macedonian