A Second Life

Zum Tod von Stanley Greene:

Stanley Greene, "Zelina, after the death of her child" (Downtown Grozny, April 2001)
Stanley Greene, „Zelina, after the death of her child“ (Downtown Grozny, April 2001)

After this life / we’ll need a second life / to apply what we learned / in the first.

We make one mistake / after another / and need a second life / to forget.

We hum endlessly / as we wait for the departed: / we need a second life / for the whole song.

We go to war / and do everything Simon says: / we need a second life / for love alone.

We need time / to serve out our prison terms / so we can live free / in our second life.

We learn a new language / but need a second life / to practice it.

We write poetry and pass away, / and need a second life / to know the critics’ opinions.

We rush around / all over the place / and need a second life / to stop and take pictures.

Suffering takes time: / we need a second life / to learn to live / without pain.

Dunya Mikhail, „A Second Life“

(translated by Kareem James Abu-Zeid, from “The Iraqi Nights“)



Vilhelm Hammershøi, „Young Girl pouring Tea“ (The Artist’s Sister, 1884)

The out-of-work painter sketches the ghetto / emptied of its inhabitants. / The painting is filled with objects. / The absence of the living is only temporary / and hints at the most delicious mysteries. / The “somewhat overstocked zoos” of pre WWII Europe. / Zeppelins are required. Liftships leave every day. / We all took pretty ponies up the golden stairs to the sun. / Extraordinary visions all last night. / Along the lake of Silvaplana, / not too far from a certain powerful pyramidal rock near Suler / I was given the envelope. / Into the teacup, quickly, my friends! / The cup (as the mirror shows) / is indeed the cracked yellow one / Otto Frank is now holding in his trembling hands / as the Nazis march down the little street. / But little teacup does make it through! / And the silence and dust are so dear to us.

Later the teacup is filled with the eyelashes of owls. / A wind comes and we waft through the night.

Joe Green

Try to remember some details

Hiroshi Watanabe, „Ellis Island 2, New York“ (from the series „American Studies“)

Try to remember some details. Remember the clothing  / of the one you love / so that on the day of loss you’ll be able to say: last seen / wearing such-and-such, brown jacket, white hat. / Try to remember some details. For they have no face / and their soul is hidden and their crying / is the same as their laughter, / and their silence and their shouting rise to one height / and their body temperature is between 98 and 104 degrees / and they have no life outside this narrow space / and they have no graven image, no likeness, no memory and they have paper cups on the day of their rejoicing / and paper cups that are used once only.

… Try, try / to remember some details.

Jehuda Amichai

Frau am Fenster VI

(after the painting by Egar Degas)

There’s nothing in my appearance except that I am disappearing / into the uncertain light; nothing that would make me certain / of any conviction, or if I’ve made the right decisions in my life. / At this point, with my skin drinking in the available light, / I find it impossible to remember if I am widow or wife, / if I’ve had a life of ease, a life of strife…

Jackie Kay, „Woman at a Window“

Impossible Friendships

For example, with someone who no longer is,
who exists only in yellowed letters.

Or long walks beside a stream,
whose depths hold hidden

porcelain Cups – and the talks about philosophy
with a timid student or the postman.

A passerby with proud eyes
whom you’ll never know.

Friendship with this world, ever more perfect
(if not for the salty smell of blood).

The old man sipping coffee
in St.-Lazare, who reminds you of someone.

Faces flashing by
in local Trains –

the happy faces of travelers headed perhaps
for a splendid ball, or a beheading.

And friendship with yourself
– since after all you don’t know who you are.

Adam Zagajewski

Alles nur geliehen

Zwar ist längst nicht mehr April, das Wetter macht aber dennoch, was es will. Irgendwie ist das Gebaren dieses Sommers auch eine sinnfällige Metapher für den Lauf des Jahres so far.

Am 30. Juni ist Geoffrey Hill gestorben. Ich liebe seinen September Song.

In einem Interview in der Paris Review sagte er einmal, „schwierig“ zu sein bedeute demokratisch zu sein, denn das Verlangen nach dem Einfachen gleiche dem Verlangen eines Tyrannen.

Gestern ist auch Elie Wiesel gestorben:

Is there a prayer for prayers? If not, it should be invented. Leah told him one day: „I am grateful to you not only for what you do and what you are, but also for what I am. I am grateful to you for that very gratitude.“ And Moshe answered her: „I like what you just said but you must never say it again.“ And Leah understood. At the end of the world there is silence, at the end of silence there is the gaze.

Elie Wiesel, „The Oath“

Wer könnte den Bogen besser spannen zwischen the cruellest month und dieser Stille – als Tomas Tranströmer:

April und Schweigen

Öde liegt der Frühling
Der samtdunkle Wassergraben
kriecht neben mir
ohne Spiegelbilder.

Das einzige, was leuchtet,
sind gelbe Blumen.

In meinem Schatten werde ich getragen
wie eine Geige
in ihrem schwarzen Kasten.

Das einzige, was ich sagen will,
glänzt außer Reichweite
wie das Silber
beim Pfandleiher.

Dazu gibt es am Ende auch ein sprechendes Bild von Teju Cole – siehe hier.

Meanwhile in France wird Fußball gespielt und ein paar Zwerge proben unbeirrt den Aufstand. Ich liebe es. Auch das.

Alles nur geliehen.

Questions of Travel

Luigi Ghirri - Mare
Luigi Ghirri, „Tellaro, Italia“ (1980)

Think of the long trip home. / Should we have stayed at home and thought of here? / Where should we be today? / Is it right to be watching strangers in a play / in this strangest of theatres? / What childishness is it that while there’s a breath of life / in our bodies, we are determined to rush / to see the sun the other way around? / The tiniest green hummingbird in the world? / To stare at some inexplicable old stonework, / inexplicable and impenetrable, / at any view, / instantly seen and always, always delightful? / Oh, must we dream our dreams / and have them, too? / And have we room / for one more folded sunset, still quite warm?

‚Is it lack of imagination that makes us come / to imagined places, not just stay at home? / Or could Pascal have been not entirely right / about just sitting quietly in one’s room?

Continent, city, country, society: / the choice is never wide and never free. / And here, or there… No. Should we have stayed at home, / wherever that may be? ‚

Elisabeth Bishop, „Questions of Travel“

The Double-Take of Seeing

Robert Frank said, “When people look at my pictures I want them to feel the way they do when they want to read a line of a poem twice.” I’m drawn to this poetic notion of photography, and I think Frank’s idea is what Pinkhassov, too, is after. He tries to foster the double-take of seeing.

Teju Cole

I could give all to Time

Gabriele Münter, Breakfast of the Birds, 1934
Gabriele Münter, „Breakfast of the Birds“ (1934)

To Time it never seems that he is brave / To set himself against the peaks of snow / To lay them level with the running wave, / Nor is he overjoyed when they lie low, / But only grave, contemplative and grave.

What now is inland shall be ocean isle, / Then eddies playing round a sunken reef / Like the curl at the corner of a smile; / And I could share Time’s lack of joy or grief / At such a planetary change of style.

I could give all to Time except – except / What I myself have held. But why declare / The things forbidden that while the Customs slept / I have crossed to Safety with? For I am There, / And what I would not part with I have kept.

Robert Frost, „I could give all to time“

The Truth the Dead Know


For my Mother, born March 1902, died March 1959 / and my Father, born February 1900, died June 1959

Gone, I say and walk from church, / refusing the stiff procession to the grave, / letting the dead ride alone in the hearse. / It is June. I am tired of being brave.

We drive to the Cape. I cultivate / myself where the sun gutters from the sky, / where the sea swings in like an iron gate / and we touch. In another country people die.

My darling, the wind falls in like stones / from the whitehearted water and when we touch / we enter touch entirely. No one’s alone. / Men kill for this, or for as much.

And what of the dead? They lie without shoes / in the stone boats. They are more like stone / than the sea would be if it stopped. They refuse / to be blessed, throat, eye and knucklebone.

Anne Sexton

Speak to me of Rivers

I’ve known rivers:

I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the flow of human blood in human veins.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.
I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.
I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.
I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln went down to New Orleans, and I’ve seen its muddy bosom turn all golden in the sunset.

I’ve known rivers:
Ancient, dusky rivers.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

Langston Hughes, „The Negro Speaks of Rivers“

Blanketing Space

Zu Kiki Smiths Triptychon siehe bei der Mützenfalterin: „Kiki Smith – Sky, Earth, Underground“.

Mich erinnert es unwillkürlich an die Bilder von Éduard Vuillard, der sich in den 1890er Jahren von Tapisserien inspirieren ließ. Er malte seine Bilder als würde er sie weben. Interieurs, die seine Mutter und Schwester bei der Hausarbeit zeigen oder Näherinnen bei ihrer Arbeit in einer der Korsettwerkstätten jener Zeit. Sie werden durch gemusterte Tapeten konturiert, ja, scheinen daraus hervorzutreten oder darin zu verschwinden, was den vermeintlichen Alltagsszenen eine zuweilen unheimliche Atmosphäre verleiht.

„What is behind it?“,  fragt Charles Simic in seinem Gedicht Tapestry.  – „Space, plenty of empty space.“ Aber während Kiki Smith von diesen Räumen dahinter erzählt, scheint es aus denen von Éduard Vuillard kein Entrinnen zu geben.

Red Riding Hood

Long ago
there was a strange deception:
a wolf dressed in frills,
a kind of transvestite.
But I get ahead of my story.

Those two remembering
nothing naked and brutal
from that little death,
that little birth,
from their going down
and their lifting up.

Anne Sexton, „Red Riding Hood“

Und wunderbar weitergedacht: Die Mützenfalterin über das Schlüpfen aus der Haut eines Wolfes…

[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]

Carry a Poem in your Pocket…

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

E. E. Cummings

An effort to enter into morning

Orange thorns snag the hair. / The old fist of bourbon / flowers in the mouth / as you step out, / the doormat wet and straight / behind your foot, / the screendoor shutting and shutting / like a fact in the mind. / The most difficult thing / is to see the morning / for what it is: a foolish / autumn, a pale crust of dragonflies / frantic in their amber / coats, circling in slow /  difficult joy.

Brenda Hilman


Auf dem Gemälde hält die Tochter des Malers die Kamera in der Hand, mit der das Foto gemacht wurde:


There ís one, yes I have one (Hush there!);
Only not within seeing of the sun,
Not within the singeing of the strong sun,
Tall sun’s tingeing, or treacherous the tainting of the earth’s air,
Somewhere elsewhere there is ah well where! one,
Oné. Yes I can tell such a key, I do know such a place,
Where whatever’s prized and passes of us, everything that ’s fresh and fast flying of us, seems to us sweet of us and swiftly away with, done away with, undone,
Undone, done with, soon done with, and yet dearly and dangerously sweet
Of us, the wimpled-water-dimpled, not-by-morning-matchèd face,
The flower of beauty, fleece of beauty, too too apt to, ah! to fleet,
Never fleets móre, fastened with the tenderest truth
To its own best being and its loveliness of youth: it is an everlastingness of, O it is an all youth!

Gerard Manley Hopkins, „The Leaden Echo and the Golden Echo“

Alles zählt

Fan Ho, „Journey to Uncertainty“

Weil sie schon früh wusste, vor allem anderen würde sie ihr Augenlicht verlieren, begann diese Patentante, Gedichte auswendig zu lernen. Celan und Rilke vor allem, sie kaute wochenlang auf einzelnen Wörtern und Versen herum, bis sie deren Bedeutung ganz erfasst hatte. Oder so weit, wie der Dichter das zuließ. Sie verlor ihren Verstand nie. Und mit dem letzten Gedicht, das sie lernte, es war eine der Elegien, spürte sie, wie sich noch einmal ein Raum voller unbekannter Empfindungen und Gedanken öffnete. „Nirgends, Geliebte, wird Welt sein als innen. [Unser Leben geht hin mit Verwandlung.] Und immer geringer schwindet das Außen.“ Es war ein Raum, zu dem sie erst Zutritt erlangte, als der Tod schon in der Zimmerecke stand und immer öfter zu ihr herüberschaute. Sie hatte ihr das erzählt, um ihr zu sagen, es gibt trotz allem etwas, das nur das Alter zu geben vermag.

Verena Lueken, „Alles zählt“

Das Vorhandensein und das Fehlen der Zukunft

Jules Bastien-Lepage, „Johanna von Orleans“ (1879)

Drei durchscheinende Engel schweben in der oberen linken Hälfte des Gemäldes. Sie haben Jeanne, die an einem Webstuhl im Garten ihrer Eltern gearbeitet hat, soeben aufgerufen, Frankreich zu retten. Ein Engel hält seinen Kopf in den Händen. Jeanne scheint auf den Betrachter zuzuwanken, einen Arm ausgestreckt, vielleicht in der Verzückung des Gerufenwerdens Halt suchend. Anstatt Zweige oder Blätter zu packen, scheint ihre Hand, die sorgfältig in der Sichtachse eines der anderen Engel platziert ist, sich aufzulösen. Laut dem Begleittext des Museums wurde Bastien-Lepage angegriffen, weil es ihm nicht gelungen sei, das Ätherische der Engel mit dem Realismus des Körpers der künftigen Heiligen zu versöhnen, aber ebendieses „Misslingen“ macht es zu einem meiner Lieblingsgemälde. Es ist, als erzeugte die Spannung zwischen der metaphysischen und physischen Welt, zwischen zwei Ordnungen von Zeitlichkeit, eine Störung in der Matrix des Bildes; der Hintergrund verschluckt Jeannes Finger. Während ich an jenem Nachmittag mit Alex dort stand, wurde ich an das Foto erinnert, das Marty in „Zurück in die Zukunft“, entscheidender Film meiner Jugend, mit sich führt:

Back to the Future - Photo

Während Martys Zeitreise die Vorgeschichte seiner Familie zerrüttet, beginnen er und seine Geschwister auf dem Foto zu verblassen. Nur ist es hier [bei Jeanne] etwas Vorhandenes, nicht etwas Fehlendes, das ihre Hand zersetzt: Sie wird in die Zukunft gezogen.

Ben Lerner, „22:04“


„Und weil man nicht spürt, welche Entscheidung die richtige ist, steht man still, wächst zitternd in den Boden bis die Lawine einen überrollt…“


the snow doesn’t give a soft white damn Whom it touches

Michele Palazzo. Jonas Blizzard in New York, 2016.
Michele Palazzo, „Jonas Blizzard in New York“ (Flat Iron Building, 2016)


i will cultivate within
me scrupulously the Inimitable which
is loneliness,these unique dreams
never shall soil their raiment

with phenomena:such
being a conduct worthy of

more ponderous
wishes or
hopes less
tall than mine“(opening the windows)

„and there is a philosophy“ strictly at
which instant(leaped
into the

street)this deep immediate mask and
expressing „as for myself,because i
am slender and fragile
i borrow contact from that you and from

this you sensations,imitating a few fatally

exquisite“(pulling Its shawl carefully around
it)“things i mean the
Rain is no respecter of persons
the snow doesn’t give a soft white
damn Whom it touches

e. e. cummings, poem XIX from „W(ViVa)“

We dance round in a ring and suppose, / But the Secret sits in the middle and knows.

„Man sollte wirklich alles, was sich über das Gemeine erheben muss, in Versen wenigstens anfänglich konzipieren, denn das Platte kommt nirgends so ins Licht, als wenn es in gebundener Schreibart ausgesprochen wird.“

Friedrich Schiller

Wohlan denn:

Suhlen im
Wasser und Tauchen
im Finsteren Tal. Feuchte
und Stille, nur die Spannung
schwebt wie ein Bogen im Raum.
Noch 84 Seiten bis zum gnadenlosen Showdown.


Latte Macchiato schmeichelt den Schleimhäuten, macht die
Mundhöhle geschmeidig für Smalltalk und Subtext,
ölig an der Oberfläche, aber
zwischen den Zeilen, da
zerfallen die Sprechblasen,
porös wie


Flor Garduño - Con Corona, México, 2000
Flor Garduño, „Con Corona“ (México, 2000)

Who knows
if the pomegranate
knows, deep down,
that it has a
different name.
Who knows
if maybe
I too have a
name that is
different from me

Inger Christensen, from „Letter in April“

„Hope“ is the thing with feathers…

There are many roads in Garduño’s photographs: some go to parties, others to graveyards, others, simply to the farmer’s fields. But sooner or later all of them cross that threshold of incense where, uncertainly, nature and art blend so that mankind may have a margin of whimsy, freedom, or significance on the face of the gods.

Carlos Fuentes

In Blackwater Woods

Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars

of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,

the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders

of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is

nameless now.
Every year
I have ever learned

in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side

is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.

Mary Oliver

Coming to this

We have done what we wanted.
We have discarded dreams, preferring the heavy industry
of each other, and we have welcomed grief
and called ruin the impossible habit to break.

And now we are here.
The dinner is ready and we cannot eat.
The meat sits in the white lake of its dish.
The wine waits.

Coming to this
has its rewards: nothing is promised, nothing is taken away.
We have no heart or saving grace,
no place to go, no reason to remain.

Mark Strand

Office at Night

The poem, [“Edward Hopper’s Office at Night”], is a part of a series of poems titled The Boss.  I, probably like many people in America, have had my fair share of horrible bosses, but one was so horrible that I started thinking about power and how it shapes or misshapes our relationships in the workplace.  The whole series became a query into the odd hierarchical relationships we form and how we struggle for power.  As an entryway into such poems, I returned to some of my favorite ekphrastic inspiration – Edward Hopper’s paintings.  Surprisingly he has several paintings that take place in offices and [Office at Night] is one of them.  Form, or lack of form is also something that helped mirror the sense of breathlessness, urgency, or spinning out of control that I felt necessary to convey so this whole series lacks any form of punctuation and is written in long lines.

Victoria Chang

Edward Hopper - Office at Night (1940)
Edward Hopper, „Office at Night“ (1940)

The boss is sitting at the desk the boss doesn’t look
at her the boss is waiting for the black telephone
to ring she also waits for a ring from the boss he is
waiting for the files from her

her blue dress like a reused file folder around
her body her hands tight around the files
the filing cabinet might eat her might take her hand off
the boss might eat her the boss

wants her but the boss wants money more just a little bit
more the boss always seems to want
the money a bit more the boss doesn’t hear
there are taxis outside waiting

for all the women down on the street across the street
a boss prepares for bed another boss above him
in apartment X rotates a Q-tip in his ear before sex
despite instructions on the box we took

my father out of the paper the living will the letters
with their little capes will leave the paper
who will take care of my children later who will take care
of my father the will will take care

of no one a piece of paper cannot take care of anyone I
cannot take care of everyone on some nights
I wake in a panic and can’t tell if I am dead or alive
this year I dye my hair so I won’t have to die

Victoria Chang


Wenn das, was das Fenster widerspiegelt, wahr ist, dann ereignet sich die Szene in einem Zwischenreich, in einer Art Schwebezustand, und die sitzende Frau ist eine Illusion. Das ist eine beunruhigende Vorstellung. Und wenn die Frau in einem solchen Kontext über sich nachdenkt, kann sie unmöglich glücklich sein…

Mark Strand, „Über Gemälde von Edwad Hopper“

Edward Hopper - Automat - 1927
Edward Hopper, „Automat“ (1927)

The woman in the automat must work must
have a boss must walk
to work two legs red with heat two legs
pressed into each other as if one
depended on the other the woman in the automat
takes one glove off to hold
the cup to shake the hand of a boss one hand
free she looks down at the circle
on the table looks down at the round reflection
of circular lights her boss circulates
memos her boss is the circle the circumference
circles her each day like a minno

Victoria Chang

Portrait of A.

If they don’t see happiness in the picture at least they’ll see the black. – Chris Marker

A magnolia tree in full bloom, X-
rayed by a streetlamp,
pressed against the windowpane
like someone hopped onto the glass
of the office Xerox and hit copy

A magnolia tree in full bloom, winter
in black and white:      cold, grainy air
and your fingers pointing,       Last April
your husband buried
the two halves of a snake         you shot

your new film about a river
that flows backwards
Rivers, did you know,
are measured by a sinuosity index
in opposite corners

of the yard so one half wouldn’t find
Length as crow flies                divided by
length as fish swims      weight
and counterweight. A magnolia,
framed, a shot looking for       its pair.

Tung-Hui Hu

My November Guest

My Sorrow, when she’s here with me,
Thinks these dark days of autumn rain
Are beautiful as days can be;
She loves the bare, the withered tree;
She walked the sodden pasture lane.

Her pleasure will not let me stay.
She talks and I am fain to list:
She’s glad the birds are gone away,
She’s glad her simple worsted gray
Is silver now with clinging mist.

The desolate, deserted trees,
The faded earth, the heavy sky,
The beauties she so truly sees,
She thinks I have no eye for these,
And vexes me for reason why.

Not yesterday I learned to know
The love of bare November days
Before the coming of the snow,
But it were vain to tell her so,
And they are better for her praise.

Robert Frost


If you believe in the magic of language,
then Elvis really Lives
and Princess Diana foretold I end as car spin.

If you believe the letters themselves
contain a power within them,
then you understand
what makes outside tedious,
how desperation becomes a rope ends it.

The circular logic that allows senator to become treason,
and treason to become atoners.

That eleven plus two is twelve plus one,
and an admirer is also married.

That if you could just rearrange things the right way
you’d find your true life,
the right path, the answer to your questions:
you’d understand how the Titanic
turns into that ice tin,
and debit card becomes bad credit.

How listen is the same as silent,
and not one letter separates stained from sainted.

Peter Pereira

The Vanished

For Nelly Sachs

It wasn’t the earth that swallowed them. Was it the air?
Numerous as the sand, they did not become
sand, but came to naught instead. They’ve been forgotten
in droves. Often, and hand in hand,

like minutes. More than us,
but without memorials. Not registered,
not cipherable from dust, but vanished –
their names, spoons, and footsoles.

They don’t make us sorry. Nobody
can remember them: Were they born,
did they flee, have they died? They were
not missed. The world is airtight
yet held together
by what it does not house,
by the vanished. They are everywhere.

Without the absent ones, there would be nothing.
Without the fugitives, nothing is firm.
Without the forgotten, nothing for certain.

The vanished are just.
That’s how we’ll fade, too.

Hans Magnus Enzensberger

translated by Rita Dove and Fred Viebahn


We are fishermen in a flat scene.
All day long we are in love with water.
The fish are naked.
The fish are always awake.
They are the color of old spoons
and caramels.
The sun reaches down
but the floor is not in sight.
Only the rocks are white and green.
Who knows what goes on in the halls below?

It’s queer to meet the loon falling in
across the top of the yellow lake
like a checkered hunchback
dragging his big feet.
Only his head and neck can breathe.
He yodels.
He goes under yodeling
like the first mate
who sways all night in his hammock, calling
I have seen, I have seen.

Water is worse than woman.
It calls to a man to empty him.
Under us
twelve princesses dance all night,
exhausting their lovers, then giving them up.
I have known water.
I have sung all night
for the last cargo of boys.
I have sung all night
for the mouths that float back later,
one by one,
holding a lady’s worn out shoe.

Anne Sexton

Zum Todestag von Anne Sexton ein Gedicht der Mützenfalterin, hier:

„Sehr geehrte Frau Sexton,…“

For once, then, something

Others taunt me with having knelt at well-curbs
Always wrong to the light, so never seeing
Deeper down in the well than where the water
Gives me back in a shining surface picture
Me myself in the summer heaven godlike
Looking out of a wreath of fern and cloud puffs.
Once, when trying with chin against a well-curb,
I discerned, as I thought, beyond the picture,
Through the picture, a something white, uncertain,
Something more of the depths – and then I lost it.
Water came to rebuke the too clear water.
One drop fell from a fern, and lo, a ripple
Shook whatever it was lay there at bottom,
Blurred it, blotted it out. What was that whiteness?
Truth? A pebble of quartz? For once, then, something.

Robert Frost

Last Canto of Paradiso

XXXIII, 46-48, 52-66

As I drew nearer to the end of all desire,
I brought my longing’s ardor to a final height,
Just as I ought. My vision, becoming pure,

Entered more and more the beam of that high light
That shines on its own truth. From then, my seeing
Became too large for speech, which fails at a sight

Beyond all boundaries, at memory’s undoing—
As when the dreamer sees and after the dream
The passion endures, imprinted on his being

Though he can’t recall the rest. I am the same:
Inside my heart, although my vision is almost
Entirely faded, droplets of its sweetness come

The way the sun dissolves the snow’s crust—
The way, in the wind that stirred the light leaves,
The oracle that the Sibyl wrote was lost.

Dante Alighieri, from the Last Canto of Paradiso

translated by Robert Pinsky


Tim Barber, Image from the series "Untitled Photographs"
Tim Barber, Image from the series „Untitled Photographs“

Into the smouldering ruin now go down:
And find, in ashes bright as hammered tin,
A buried bone-white naked mannikin
That flung from some shop window serves to bind
Her body, and its beauty, to your mind.

William Jay Smith

Miles Davis and Elisabeth Bishop Fake the Break

Those two dark syllables, begin,
offer no sustenance,
Nor does this pale squish of September sunlight unwound
Across the crabgrass.

The silence is cold, like an instrument in the hand
Which cannot be set aside,
Unlike our suffering, so easy, so difficult.

Still, the warmth on our skin is nice,
and the neighbor’s pears,
Late pears, dangle like golden hourglasses above our heads.

„It’s just description,“ she said,
„they’re all just description.“
Meaning her poems … Mine, too,
The walleye of morning’s glare
lancing the landscape,
The dogwood berries as red as cinnamon drops in the trees,
Sunday, the twenty-ninth of September, 1991.

From the top … Beginning in ignorance, we stick to the melody –
Knowledge, however, is elsewhere,
a tune we’ve yet to turn to,
Its syllables scrubbed in light, its vestibules empty.

Charles Wright

Woman at a Window waving at a Girl

Jacobus Vrel,
Jacobus Vrel, „Woman at a Window waving at a Girl“ (ca. 1650-1700)

Vieles in diesem Bild spricht gegen seinen Titel. Als würde die Hand der Frau, die wir nur von hinten sehen – wenn sich wenigstens ihr Gesicht im Fensterglas spiegeln würde – in einer Geste der Ungläubigkeit an die Scheibe fassen, als handelte es sich bei dem Mädchen um ein vermeintliches Trugbild, dessen Erscheinung nur durch Berührung wahr werden könnte. Dieses Kind, das wie ein Licht in dunkler Nacht vor dem Fenster auftaucht, was macht es überhaupt zu offensichtlich später Stunde da draußen im Stockfinsteren? Und wie oft und wie lange mag die Frau schon dort gesessen haben in diesem nicht besonders bequem anmutenden Stuhl. Tatenlos vermutlich. Bis sie plötzlich ruckartig nach vorne schnellt, weil das, wonach sie vielleicht Ausschau gehalten haben mag – oder auch nicht -, weil auf einmal etwas wie aus dem Nichts und zum Greifen nahe vor ihr steht. Wenn auch nur fast. Nietzsche fällt mir ein: …Und wenn du lange in einen Abgrund blickst, blickt der Abgrund auch in dich hinein. Oder Edgar Allan Poe:

Take this kiss upon the brow! / And, in parting from you now, / Thus much let me avow – / You are not wrong, who deem / That my days have been a dream; / Yet if hope has flown away / In a night, or in a day, / In a vision, or in none, / Is it therefore the less gone? / All that we see or seem / Is but a dream within a dream…

Well, folks: Take this kiss upon the brow! Das Hamsterrad ruft, hier wird es nun zwangsläufig wieder etwas ruhiger werden. Ich danke vielmals und ganz herzlich für Eure Aufmerksamkeit, und wo immer Ihr seid: Let your nodes glow on in the dark!

Wahrheit oder Pflicht

Hans Aichinger,
Hans Aichinger, „Les Certitude du Réalisme“ (2010)

Ich fühle mich geehrt. Matthias von der Beat Company hat mich nominiert. Und das zu einer Zeit, da mir scheinen will, die Frau, die hier rumwerkelt, verschwindet zunehmend hinter ihren Spiegelbildern. Ich gebe kaum noch Privates von mir preis. Ich folge nur einer Handvoll Blogs. Es geht mir gut.

In mein analoges Leben ist auf leisen Sohlen ein Mensch getreten, den ich anfangs gar nicht bemerkte. Es sind nicht nur die Samtpfoten, die ihn auszeichnen. Es ist wohl seiner Hartnäckigkeit zuzuschreiben, dass er gewartet hat, bis ich ihm eine Tür öffnen konnte. Lange Zeit dachte ich, bis zum Ende meiner Tage würde ich das tiefe Tal nicht mehr verlassen. Und plötzlich fühlt es sich ein bisschen weniger einsam an. Was die Zukunft bringen wird, weiß ich nicht. Dieser Mensch ist wesentlich jünger als ich, und eigentlich weiß ich auch überhaupt nicht, was er bei mir findet. Es gibt diesen Sicherheitsabstand zwischen uns, der sich nicht überwinden ließe, ohne dass ich ihn auf meine grauen Haare, auf meine Krähenfüße oder Lachfalten, kurzum: auf die Tatsache aufmerksam machen müsste, dass ich seine Mutter sein könnte. Nicht dass er nicht wüsste, wie alt ich bin. Jahrgang 1964. Kein Geheimnis. Und obwohl ich mich zuweilen älter fühle als meine Mutter, sehe ich nicht so aus und spüre das junge Mädchen in mir, immer auf dem Sprung, all den verpassten Gelegenheiten nachzujagen, die seinen Weg bis zum heutigen Tage pflastern. Keiner von uns macht Anstalten, diesen Sicherheitsabstand aufzugeben, und selbst das fühlt sich ganz natürlich an. Es ist, wie es ist. Und so, wie es ist, ist es erst einmal gut. Wir sind kein Paar, wir sind Freunde, und das ist so viel mehr, als ich vor geraumer Zeit noch für möglich gehalten hätte in meinem Leben.

Ach ja, worum geht es denn überhaupt? Um den Liebsten Award natürlich. Das Spannende an der ganzen Sache sind manchmal die Fragen. Was machst Du im Leben nach dem Tod? Wie bitte? Träumst du noch oder bist du schon wach, dachte ich, als ich das heute morgen las. Well, „in the morning it was morning and I was still alive.“ So weit, so gut. Darüber hinaus konnte es sich nur um einen Zufall handeln, dass mir jemand ausgerechnet die Frage stellt, die mich seit geraumer Zeit umtreibt. Zufall? Wie immer verweise ich auch diesmal auf Max Frisch.

1. Was machst Du im Leben nach dem Tod?

Nach jetzigem Stand der Dinge werde ich nicht zu den Menschen gehören, die rundum zufrieden auf ihr Leben zurückblicken können, wenn sie auf dem Totenbett liegen. Ich hoffe, es wird mir deshalb nicht schwerer fallen, zu gehen, wenn es soweit ist. Ich glaube auch nicht, dass es ein Leben nach dem Tod gibt. In letzter Zeit denke ich nur manchmal, dass es mich trösten würde, wenn ich glauben könnte, dass sich mir nach dem Tod tatsächlich die Möglichkeit bieten würde, mich für ein weiteres Leben zu entscheiden. Mit etwas Glück würde mir die Gnade eines unproblematischeren Elternhauses zuteil, mein beruflicher Werdegang wäre kein Zickzackkurs, sondern die Entscheidungen lägen klarer und früher auf der Hand, und ich wäre mit genügend Selbstbewusstsein ausgestattet, das zu verwirklichen, wovon ich immer nur geträumt habe. Konkret: Im Leben nach dem Tod arbeite ich, Hauptsache irgendwas, im Bereich Kunst und Kultur, und der Job dient nicht nur dazu, das Dach über dem Kopf und das tägliche Brot zu sichern, ohne jemals Freude zu machen, sondern ist, darunter geht gar nichts, Berufung. Andernfalls kann mir ein Leben nach dem Tod auch gut und gerne gestohlen bleiben.

2. Wen siehst Du, wenn Du morgens in den Spiegel schaust?

Gute Frage an eine, die sich Frau im Spiegel nennt und ein Morgenmuffel ist. Aber ich sehe das oben erwähnte junge Mädchen, das wie jeden Tag schon in den Startlöchern steht. Ich sehe ihr in die Augen und denke: „Here’s looking at you, kid.“ Wenn ich morgens in den Spiegel schaue, sehe ich auch die unverbesserliche Romantikerin in mir, der ich für den Rest des Tages konsequent aus dem Weg gehen werde.

3. Wahrheit oder Pflicht ? (Best of Flaschendrehen)

Ich weiß nicht, ob ich das Spiel überhaupt jemals gespielt habe, deshalb musste ich mich erst einmal schlau machen:

Entweder nach beantworteter Frage bzw. erfüllter Aufgabe oder der Reihe nach oder durch eine Zufallsauswahl (oftmals mittels Flaschendrehen) wird der Befragte, welcher nun „Wahrheit oder Pflicht“ (also eine Aufgabe) zu erfüllen hat, ausgewählt. Dazu muss sich der Befragte zuerst zwischen „Wahrheit“ und „Pflicht“ entscheiden. Bei „Wahrheit“ wird dem Ausgewählten eine Frage gestellt, die er wahrheitsgemäß beantworten muss; bei „Pflicht“ muss der Ausgewählte eine von den anderen Mitspielern auserkorene Aufgabe erledigen. Die Frage oder Aufgabe stellt dabei derjenige, der vorher der Befragte war. Je nachdem, in welchem Alter sich die Spieler befinden, gehen die Fragen und Aufgaben oft in den persönlichen oder intimen Bereich.

Quelle: wikipedia

Hier fällt mir die Entscheidung nicht schwer. Unter welchen Umständen auch immer, ich gebe der Wahrheit den Vorzug. Jede Wahrheit ist besser, als eine Pflicht zu erfüllen, die womöglich lästig ist.

Für den Fall, dass ich mich jetzt auf eine weitere Frage gefasst machen muss: „I am ready, I am fine“, Matthias. Und last but not least: Herzlichen Dank!

The Human Fate Given A Human Face

…And did this woman, who clearly still
Speaks no English, her head scarf, say, Russian?
A son stands at her side, crop-haired, in clumpy
Shoes. She stares straight forward, reserved, aware,
Embattled. The deep-set eyes say something
About the emptiness of most wishes; and
About her hopes. She knows the odds are poor.
Or, the odds are zero, counted from here.
That past survives its population
And is unkind. Triumph no more than failure
In the longest run ever fails to fail.
Is that the argument against shuffling,
Dealing, and reshuffling these photographs?
They are not mementos of death alone,
But of life lived variously, avatars
Energy, insight, cruelty took – and love.
Variousness: the great kaleidoscope
Of time, its snowflake pictures, form after
Form, collapsing into the future, hours,
Days, seasons, generations that rise up
And fall like leaves, each one a hand inscribed
With fragile calligraphy of selfhood;
The human fate given a human face.

Alfred Corn, „Photographs of Old New York“

Freud’s Beautiful Things

A cento

I have some sad news for you
I am but a symbol, a shadow cast on paper
If only you knew how things look within me at the moment
Trees covered in white blossom
The remains of my physical self
Do you really find my appearance so attractive?
Darling, I have been telling an awful lot of lies lately
If only I knew what you are doing now?
Standing in the garden and gazing out into the deserted street?
Not a mermaid, but a lovely human being
The whole thing reminds me of the man trying to rescue a birdcage from the burning house
(I feel compelled to express myself poetically)
I am not normally a hunter of relics, but …
It was this childhood scene …
(My mother … )
All the while I kept thinking: her face has such a wild look
… as though she had never existed
The fact is I have not yet seen her in daylight
Distance must remain distance
A few proud buildings; your lovely photograph
I find this loss very hard to bear
The bells are ringing, I don’t quite know why
What makes all autobiographies worthless is, after all, their mendacity
Yesterday and today have been bad days
This oceanic feeling, continuous inner monologues
I said, “All the beautiful things I still have to say will have to remain unsaid,” and the writing table flooded

Emily Berry

En Route II


To travel without baggage, sleep in the train
on a hard wooden bench,
forget your native land,
emerge from small stations
when a gray sky rises
and fishing boats head to sea.


It was drizzling in Belgium
and the river wound between hills.
I thought, I’m so imperfect.
The trees sat in the meadows
like priests in green cassocks.
October was hiding in the weeds.
No, ma’am, I said,
this is the nontalking compartment.


It will be disappointed if it swoops down
on sheet iron, on gas,
on a tape of tawdry music,
on our narrow hearts.


It shines from afar, white and cautious,
like a lantern for shadows.


On the meadow a vast temple –
a wild animal
open to the sky.


Summer was gigantic, triumphant –
and our little car looked lost
on the road going to Verdun.


In the underground tunnel
cigarette butts grow,
not daisies.
It stinks of loneliness.


They’re learning to walk
on land.


Eternity doesn’t travel,
eternity waits.
In a fishing port
only the gulls are chatty.


From the theater in Taormina you spot
the snow on Etna’s peak
and the gleaming sea.
Which is the better actor?


A black cat comes out to greet us
as if to say, look at me
and not some old Romanesque church.
I’m alive.


At the bottom of the valley
a Romanesque church at rest:
there’s wine in this cask.


Light on the walls of old houses,
Passerby, open your eyes.


The world’s materiality at dawn –
and the soul’s frailty.

Adam Zagajewski, from „Eternal Enemies“

translated by Claire Cavanagh

Snow White

Marlene Dumas,
Marlene Dumas, „Snow White and the Broken Arm“ (1988)

No matter what life you lead
the virgin is a lovely number:
cheeks as fragile as cigarette paper,
arms and legs made of Limoges,
lips like Vin Du Rhône,
rolling her china-blue doll eyes
open and shut.
Open to say,
Good Day Mama,
and shut for the thrust
of the unicorn.
She is unsoiled.
She is as white as a bonefish.

Anne Sexton, „Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs“

The Widow’s Lament in Springtime

Sorrow is my own yard
where the new grass
flames as it has flamed
often before, but not
with the cold fire
that closes round me this year.
Thirty-five years
I lived with my husband.
The plum tree is white today
with masses of flowers.
Masses of flowers
load the cherry branches
and color some bushes
yellow and some red,
but the grief in my heart
is stronger than they,
for though they were my joy
formerly, today I notice them
and turn away forgetting.
Today my son told me
that in the meadows,
at the edge of the heavy woods
in the distance, he saw
trees of white flowers.
I feel that I would like
to go there
and fall into those flowers
and sink into the marsh near them.

William Carlos Williams

Ode To A Nightingale / Tender Is The Night

Already with thee! tender is the night…
…But here there is no light,
Save what from heaven is with the breezes blown
Through verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways.

John Keats, „Ode To A Nightingale“

Dieses Zitat stellte F. Scott Fitzgerald seinem Roman Tender Is The Night voran. Im Folgenden rezitiert er selbst Keats’ “Ode” an die Sterblichkeit und das Vergehen der Schönheit:


Fitzgerald kommt einige Male vom Text ab, bevor er vollständig den Faden verliert und sein Vortrag kurz vor dem Ende abrupt abbricht. Eine traurige Metapher auch für sein Leben, das im Alter von nur 44 Jahren bereits ausgehaucht war.

Die Frankfurter Rundschau schrieb: „Engel sind die eleganteren Menschen. Aber wer hoch steigt, wird tief fallen. Niemand zeigte beides so schön wie F. Scott Fitzgerald.“ Und Heinrich Detering in seinem Nachwort zu Zärtlich ist die Nacht: „Jedes Detail hat einen doppelten Boden.“

Wieviel unheilvolle Vorahnung allein in dieser Beschreibung liegt:

A mile from the sea, where pines give way to dusty poplars, is an isolated railroad stop, whence one June morning in 1925 a victoria brought a woman and her daughter down Gausse’s Hotel. The mother’s face was of a fading prettiness that would soon be patted with broken veins; her expression was both tranquil and aware in a pleasant way. However, one’s eye moved on quickly to her daughter, who had magic in her pink palms and her cheeks lit to a lovely flame, like the thrilling flush of children after their cold bath in the evening. Her fine forehead sloped gently up to where her hair, bordering it like an armorial shield, burst into lovelocks and waves and curlicues of ash blonde and gold. Her eyes were bright, big, clear, wet, and shining, the color of her cheeks was real, breaking close to the surface from the strong young pump of her heart. Her body hovered delicately on the last edge of childhood – she was almost eighteen, nearly complete, but the dew was still on her.

As sea and sky appeared below them in a thin, hot line the mother said:

„Something tells me we’re not going to like this place.“

F. Scott Fitzgerald, „Tender Is The Night“

Like Two Negative Numbers Multiplied By Rain

Lie down, you are horizontal.
Stand up, you are not.

I wanted my fate to be human.

Like a perfume
that does not choose the direction it travels,
that cannot be straight or crooked, kept out or kept.

Yes, No, Or
— a day, a life, slips through them,
taking off the third skin,
taking off the fourth.

The logic of shoes becomes at last simple,
an animal question, scuffing.

Old shoes, old roads —
the questions keep being new ones.
Like two negative numbers multiplied by rain
into oranges and olives.

Jane Hirshfield

The stars are pears

Illustration von Barbara Swan aus "Transformations" von Anne Sexton
Illustration von Barbara Swan aus „Transformations“ von Anne Sexton

If I could blame it all on the weather,
the snow like the cadaver’s table,
the trees turned into knitting needles,
the ground as hard as a frozen haddock,
the pond wearing its mustache of frost.

If I could blame conditions on that,
if I could blame the hearts of strangers
striding muffled down the street,
or blame the dogs, every color,
sniffing each other
and pissing on the doorstep.

If I could blame the bosses
and the presidents for
their unpardonable songs.

If I could blame it on all
the mothers and fathers of the world,
they of the lessons, the pellets of power,
they of the love surrounding you like batter.

Blame it on God perhaps?
He of the first opening
that pushed us all into our first mistakes?
No, I’ll blame it on Man
For Man is God
and man is eating the earth up
like a candy bar
and not one of them can be left alone with the ocean
for it is known he will gulp it all down.

The stars (possibly) are safe.

At least for the moment.

The stars are pears
that no one can reach,
even for a wedding.

Perhaps for a death.

Anne Sexton