Pictures, pictures – so clear and clandestine
I instantly grew stiff – each tree, the whole
wood also looked. I was not even scared,
fell at once between two thighs on finding
it. It got a story only later.

Just like today. Who will unearth my smile?
Who will angel me into bed? The girls
under my mattress, they are all so quick,
at my command they lightning off their clothes,
they have no names, they have no lives, they’re put

straight away. At times in the evening, though,
I see the wood where I found my first book:
a stump with thighs, curled grass, shimmering light,
my eyes smoulder and the sky glimmers. That
afternoon as an open wound.

                                               Translated by John Irons




Of almost everything I’ve been ashamed.
My neck, my hair, my writing and my name,

the satchel from my mother that I’d don,
the blazer that my father would heave on,

the house where offered friendship was refused.
Now that my father though hangs from five tubes,

talks of goodbyes while heaving more for breath,
my shame now crouches out of sight. He died

the way he drove his Opel: quite composed,
correct, his eyes fixed firmly on the road.

No wish to wrestle senselessly with death.
How everything I still had left to say

beneath the wheels of time was blown away.

                                              Translated by John Irons




ROOM 421

My mother’s near kaput. She’s got a hutch,
not quite a box, and sits the same day out
each day on her much pissed-on chair. Can stare
at trees outside, and in those trees are birds
that know not who has once begotten them.

I’ve been her son now over forty years
and pay her calls and don’t know who I greet.
She’s read to me aloud, and tucked me up.
She falters, stalls, gets stuck. She’s near kaput.

No beast thinks of its mother, so they say.
With trembling hand I spoon food in her mouth
am almost certain she still knows my face.

It must be blackbirds. On and on they churn.
The earth cries out. And curse on curse is heard.

                                               Translated by John Irons



Here no Natureingang.
No rill of silver, golden sunlight, sodding poem.
He cared not for the sun.

But if he heard a sound, or saw a flame, he seized
it white-hot with his hand.
At times he stood sacred talking to a picture

or planted with great care
a cut flower in the earth. A child of seventeen
with cellars in his eyes.

His origins obscure. People seeking to kill him.
His mouth that was unmanned
that helplessly repeated all it was force-fed with:

‘I want to be a horseman.’
He knew no more. And we, we taught Kaspar how to look,
wished to enrich his head

with German, rock-hard German that dispelled all fear.
But gave no explanation.
And bastard prince or not, he came to know no joy.

And Kaspar now is dead.
And we, we lived him, scripted him in glowing
German that read nothing right.

- Break every pen. Duff every letter up.
No tongue that can console,
no word blush rose at Kaspar and his doglike death.

                                                                                                                                               Translated by John Irons




I know the cheerlessness of copy centres,
     of hollow men with newspapers gone yellow,
mothers, bespectacled, with changes of address,

the smell of stationery, of bank statements,
     taxation forms, of tenancy agreements,
that ink of nothing saying we exist.

And I saw suburbs, budding and yet dead,
     where nameless people would resemble people,
the street near flawlessly looks like a street.

Who do they copy? Who do I copy
     myself? Father, mother, world, DNA,
you stand there with your glittering own name,

your head so full of cleverly cribbed hope
     of rest, promotion, family, big money.
And I, who caterwaul inside my cantos,

if only I had something new to utter.
     Light. Heaven. Love. Disease. Or death.
I know the cheerlessness of copy centres.

                                              Translated by John Irons



There are emotions of a fascist kind.
The father who hits out but can’t tell why,
the son half-choked who scratches photos through.

The loveliest idiot I ever saw
lay on his back, a total universe.
No father got to grasp this basket case

that drifted through the pool like one in space,
no mother poked his bowl of fish around.
And skewed and pale and wise he swam. Swam sound.

                                              Translated by John Irons




Cars, laughter, noises: everything’s shut out
at seven up. All I can hear’s my sponge

and squeaky wheezing from the steel from which
I hang. Sometimes a cloud will speak to me

or I guess what a seagull has to say.
The humans: busy, pale, mute, behind glass.

At eight up art. That girl inside, that laugh,
who’s spied on her so much that she, immune

to compliments, thus looks into my face?
When does that sparrow-hawk escape its frame?

I’m hanging like an ice-cold painting here
that no one notices, I toil and wipe,

unveil the view once more – remake month
after month the unfaked clouds again.

Look. Now sunlight creeps into my frame.

                                              Translated by John Irons