Der Zuschauer

A Journal of Essays and Reportage on Drama, History, and Literature

Poems by Stanley Richardson from the German of Georg Heym

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Berlin I

Forcefully, barrels roll up from the belly
Of the dark warehouse onto the high barge,
The tug-boat draws close. The Lion’s mane of smoke
Hangs sooty below on the oily water.

Two steamers come by with brass bands;
Their funnels cut sharp into the arches of the bridge.
Smoke, soot, stench lies on the filthy surge
Near the tannery with the shit-brown skin.

At each bridge, where underneath,
We make our destination, the signals
Sound like drums growing in the night.

We gratify ourselves slowly by the canal
In the garden. In the idyl afterwards
We see the gigantic smokestack’s torch of night.

Stanley Richardson,
Adapted from the German of Georg Heym.

Berlin II

The raised roadside, on which we lay
Was white from dust. We saw in the road
Countless torrents of people, great crowds,
And we saw the cosmopolitan city towering above.

Packed motor coaches forced themselves through the crowd,
Little paper flags were pushed out on the sides.
There were buses covered and open,
Automobiles, smoke, and the Armageddon of horns.

All headed to a great sea of stone.

Still, towards the west we saw down long roads
Tree after tree after tree,
And in them the filigree of the leafless crowns.

The round sun hung huge at the edge of heaven,
And red beams shot through the evening’s course.
In every head lay the dream of light.

Stanley Richardson,
Adapted from the German of Georg Heym.

Berlin III

Chimneys stand in great open space
On a winter’s day, and hold up their burden,
The black skies’ darkening palace,
As a golden step burns its lower edge.

In the distance, between leafless trees, many a house,
Fences and sheds, where the cosmopolitan city lessens,
And on frozen tracks, a long freight train
Laboriously drags its heavy self along.

A poor graveyard juts out, black, stone on stone,
The dead appear from the red destruction,
Out of their hole. They smell like strong wine.

They sit roped along a wall, their caps
From Rusland down along the fleshless temples;
They sing the Marseillaise, that old song of tumult.

Stanley Richardson,
Adapted from the German of Georg Heym.

Evening

Sunken, deep, the day, in purple-crimson,
The river is awash, white, immensely smooth.
A sail comes; it raises itself out of the boat
And greatly spreads the ship’s silhouette.

On each island the autumn forest rises
With red tree-tops becoming clear in the air.
And from the ravine’s darkening depths
The forests’ sounds ring out like the rustling strings of the zither.

Darkness in the the east is pouring out
Like blue wine rushes out of the fallen urn
And in the distance, in the high night,
A black greatcoat flowing round, shadows an Attic tragic boot.

Stanley Richardson,
Adapted from the German of Georg Heym.

Robespierre: Where Is Reason Now?

He moans a short time. The eyes stare down
At the wagon’s straw. The mouth masticates white foam,
He draws it back in swallowing through the cheeks.
His feet hang naked through two struts of wood.

At each jolt of the wagon he flies upwards.
His chained arms then whistle like bells.
One hears children’s happy laughter ring out.
Their mother lifts them up out of the crowd.

Someone tickles his leg; he notices nothing.
The wagon stops. He looks about himself, sees
At the street’s end, the black blade of justice.

The ashen-grey forehead is daubed with sweat,
The mouth distorts itself awfully in the face.
One waits for the screams. Still one hears no sound.

Stanley Richardson,
Adapted from the German of Georg Heym.

Hunger

Hunger commands a dog, the more he closes
His red mouth. The blue tongue casts
Itself in and out. He rolls in dust, he slobbers
On withered grass, which he has rectified from sand.

His empty throat is like a great door;
Inside fire trickles slowly, drop, drop,
Which in the belly burns. Then an icy hand
Grows around the scorching gullet.

He staggers through steam. The sun is a spot,
A red oven door. A greenish half moon leads
A dance before his eyes. The dog is gone.

A black hole yawns; cold stares from it.
He falls down yet still feels as the terror
With frozen fists constricts his throat.

Stanley Richardson,
Adapted from the German of Georg Heym.

Last Watch

How vague is your sleep,
And your hands so heavy.
You are already far from here,
And you listen no more to me.

Under the flickering light,
You are so sad and old,
And your lips are ashen,
Caught in everlasting rigidity.

Already in the morning quiet,
And perhaps in the air
There is still the rustling of garlands
And a scent of decomposition.

However, the nights are deserted
Now, year upon year upon year,
Here, where your head lies now,
And lightly, forever, where your breath was.

Stanley Richardson,
Adapted from the German of Georg Heym.

Just Now the Days Go Lightly

Just now the days go lightly
In the gentle red of evening
And the hedges are thinning out,
Towers stay put in the cities,
And the houses are carefully painted.

And the moon has gone to sleep,
With its enormous white head
Behind a huge cloud,
And the streets go pale
Through the houses and the gardens.

The hanged men, however, swing
Fondly up in the hills
In their black silhouette,
And the executioner lies sleeping
With his arm around the clammy axes.

Stanley Richardson,
Adapted from the German of Georg Heym.

The Suicides

Mad among trees where the branches snap,
They are frightened at every clammy step,
Sneering and rotten, and in shock as
A white fire flickers in their foreheads.

Already, their life is flat like out of a pan,
Steaming in the grey air and made blank.
They see themselves squinting, cross-wise,
Their eyes in blue water run completely together.

Their ears now hear many muffled whispers;
They stand as shadows in the darkening passage,
And weak voices come towards them,
Growing louder in each pond and every tree.

Hands brush against the weight of their necks,
Lashing forwards on their stiff backs.
They go wavering as on a narrow bridge.
And no more risk trying to grasp the void.

In the expanse of evening a dark snow falls,
And as tears will cover your beard,
Thorns and barbs want to grab,
And laugh lightly with the cracking head.

As fish hang themselves in a net,
The compassionate moon bursts out with great light.
The suicides stamp with long, boney legs-
In darkness, they are the scraps of dead things.

Stanley Richardson,
Adapted from the German of Georg Heym.

Copyright 2012. Der Zuschauer.

Written by herrdramaturg

March 22, 2012 at 3:31 pm

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