POETRY‎ > ‎

BERLIN ELEGIES



Ich schlief, aber mein Herz war wach.  



          


DEDICATION


You darken and dazzle my days

You light up my nights

Batter bruise and confuse me

Delight and seduce me

with pure luxuriant noise

Then sit, the still small heart of me

So much a part of me

Every word I ever write

I write for thee


*  


DREAM


I dreamt we were walking

free among the dead

Bombs had flattened the sky

The earth was on fire

We crawled into a hole you

laid your head on my breast

laughed, and touched me with desire

I thought, are we dead?

Is this heaven, this place full of

bodies?  I wanted to ask but

you kissed me instead


*  


CONVERSATION

 

We were talking

as if we had never been dumb

It was summer and the goldengroves

stood silent in the heat

upright and gleaming

We were doing the talking:

franglais deutsch oder russisch vielleicht

Ich weiß nicht mehr

and it doesn't matter

Words like ringing golden coins

dropped from your mouth onto the wooden table

under the oak trees all bright and breathing

the summer twilight goes on

and on unleaving

  

*  

DREAM


You are sitting at table

I come up behind you

and place my hands on your shoulders

They rest there quietly

two pale butterflies

Why don't you turn round?

I can feel you smiling

 

* 

 

BEREITE DICH, ZION

 

Fresh snow on the fields

and all along the track

frost flowers blooming.

In the distance a single light

flickers and dies

Overhead the stars like golden fireflies

are winking in the forest of the night.

 

I have put on my corals and rubies

I have put on my robe of purest light

I have sewed my heart to the sleeve of my garment

Ich bin bereit.

 

* 

DREAM

 

Trying on hats before a blue mirror

I caught sight of you in the glass

watching me

The hat feathered and wild

a joke between us

You there in the corner

suddenly smiled

 

* 

NOT A DREAM


It's the middle of the night

the streets are covered in broken glass

you're sitting in the plush blue interior of your BMW

with your head down on the steering wheel

crying


*  


THE PRINCESS


All the windows were dark but one

All the candles were burning

I lay in the rosewater bath and watched

the sky turning

that strange light-fingered grey

that comes before day

 

Watched the blood petals floating

All the veins were open

The windows too

Out in the street

the snow was crisp underfoot

And the sky like a sheet

of cold metal burning

 

* 


ON THE U-BAHN


Everybody's watching me

Everybody's smiling

I'm the Princess of the U-Bahn

in my bright metal jacket

There's a big pool of blood

getting bigger every minute

right under my feet

Everybody's watching

 

*  


THE PRISONER

 

They are keeping you deep underground

in a small dark room cut into the rock

no light no air

hardly room to turn round

I can hear you calling

Your voice very faint, but clear

calling my name

I'm afraid, but I know I must go to you

 

Deeper and deeper

I follow the sound of your voice

down black walls dripping with damp

seething with snakes

I pass a sign:

'Sie Verlassen den Amerikanischen Sektor'

I know I'm not in Kansas anymore

and I haven't even a mangy little dog

to help me out

Still, I've got to get you out

So I keep going down

deeper and deeper and deeper...

 

Isn't there an opera

something like this?

How does it end?

O namenlose Freude?

O endless joy, my Friend

 

* 


HOUSE ON FIRE


Somebody call the fire brigade!

I think we're in trouble

I think we're on fire

 

Aren't those flames eating up the stage

roaring up on the roof

lighting up the night sky?

 

Why do they all just sit there?

Nobody scream or run?

I can feel the heat on my face

Now my hair's caught fire

My fine silk gown in a moment

all burnt to ash

My naked skin swells

turns bright as brass

cracks open

my bones are molten

my heart's alight

and my eyes are melting down

 

Now the walls are collapsing

The balconies fall blazing to the ground

The golden caryatids in crowns of flame

genuflect, crumble

and tumble into the pit!

Still nobody makes a sound

Still in their seats they sit

and watch you sing

and don't seem to notice anything

 

When at last it's over

I look around and see

everything in its place

everyone smiling and clapping

No one got burned but me


*  


NIGHTINGALE


I went into the forest

in the middle of the night

to hear you, my wild little bird!

 

Oh you'll break my heart with your song

of the starlight and the moonlight

and the rushing black brook so cold

Oh you'll break my heart,

My wild little bird!

 

I lay down in the rushes

by the edge of the brook

under the starlight and the moonlight

The wet leaves cover me

I won't get up again

You've broken my heart with your wild song

Oh my Love, my Little One!

 

*  


ROSE


I was just a pretty little rose

blooming in a corner of the garden

Everyone who saw me loved me

Blushing, I showed my red silk gown

and gave my sweet scent

freely to all

 

I had three friends:

the worm, the butterfly

and the nightingale who sang all night

for me alone

 

One day there came a boy

He crushed the worm under his boot

He caught the butterfly

He frightened the nightingale away

 

Then he plucked me and put me in his breast

In a little while he was tired of me

and threw me away

 

Now I lie here in the cold, wet grass

and look up at the night sky

the stars are shining

so stern and hard and far away

Very soon I'll go to them

 

O wicked boy!

Why pluck me from my garden

only to throw me away?

But I'll make you pay

For while you were keeping me

tucked in your breast I stuck a thorn

I drove it deep into your heart

You won't ever be able to pluck it out

Now you are mine forever.....


*  


ANGELS OVER BERLIN

 

Not every angel is terrible

There are good angels and bad angels

One must learn to distinguish

 

There are angels that stand at the door of the dead

They've only come to take us home

Still we fear their company

 

Angels who sit and wait

their hands in their golden laps

for us to make a mistake

then rush in where all others

fear to tread

 

Bad angels lead us astray

into gleaming gardens of fake flowers

Know a bad angel by his charm

and by his sense of humour

 

The good in bright armour

clank about the sky

throttle nightmares

and thrust man-hungry demons down to hell

 

The best pity us

weep for our sins

Sit down beside us in our sorrow

and touch us with gentle hands

They carry our love - that heavy burden

All the way up the sky

And bring us gifts we cannot see or touch

and do not value much and cast away

Then spread their wings

a canopy of light above our sleep


*  


THE AGE OF INNOCENCE


Do you remember the taste of my lips?

The roses that strewed our path

the light to our feet?

Do you remember honey cakes in the grass

and sticky hands unwilling to part

Do you remember, my Heart?

 

How kind you were to me then!  How good -

Showed me things in the wood

birds' nests and fairy rings

When I cried you kissed me

Laughed and called me 'little Sister'

He knows everything, I thought

He can do anything

 

Do you remember our dance?

Do you remember our song?

And the shadows at twilight purple and long?

 

The little white bed where we lay

and the magic we used to say

to make the moon rise

and the fairies come out to play

The stars that shone so bright

The secrets whispered at night

The Angel who stood at the foot of our bed

The place on your shoulder where

I always laid my head


*  


SPIRITUAL LOVERS


Asleep in my starry tent

Asleep in my blue white skin

I am a rose of Sharon

I am a tower of ivory

I am a vessel of gold

I sleep but my heart

waketh within

 

Open to me, my Sister, my Bride!

 

He has placed a crown of heavy gold on my head

A pearl of price in my mouth

I cannot move nor speak

nor turn my eyes

How then shall I rise and let thee in?

 

His voice in the rain and the rocks

His voice in the thunder

His voice in the tender birds

in the wind and the water

 

Open to me, my Dove, my Undefiled!

 

His head is wet with the dew

He has brought me the moon and the stars to play with

His hand is upon the lock

 

Open to me, my Sister, my Bride!

with myrhh-dropping fingers I go to the door


*


IN THE CLEFTS OF THE ROCK


We're feeding on lilies and lobster salad

at three a.m.

happy humbled sodden satiate

most horribly in love

hungry after all that

larking about

Funny, I think

how something so raunchy

so animal blue

can be so true

 

the soul hanging by a thread

the heart a red balloon about to burst

eyes drowned senses stunned

and your hungry wolf's head howling

 

Look at you now

shine like the moon

over the dark kitchen table

As for me, I'm too happy to move

too happy to speak

(but not too happy to eat)

my feet in your lap and

my elbows on the table

 

*  


BIRTHDAY CAKE


I made a cake

with sugar and eggs and cream

On the cake I drew a heart

lieblich und zart

so wie Du

I wrote your name on it too

This was my dream of the cake

I wanted to bake

For you


*  


NOT A DEDICATION

   

Not to your lips

Not to your eyes

Not to be silly

Not to be wise

 

Not overwhelmed by your

multifarious charms

Not about to

lie down in your arms

 

Not one bit in love with you

Don't be absurd

Not one single line for you

Not one word


*  

 

LULLABY (FOR MY BABY)


Hush, my little boy

Don't you cry

Mama's gonna love you

 by and by

 

By and by

Oh by and by

Mama's gonna love you

 by and by

 

The stars be shining

by and by

The moon be shining

by and by

Every man is born to die

 by and by

oh by and by

 

Hush, my little boy

Don't you cry

Jesus gonna take you home

 by and by