Pictures

My mother drives the goat
never has she owned her
over the green leaf-tops
my father’s clocks strike
one after another in the night
my brother died very young
his flowers grow wild
since he no longer counts
My city went up in flames
people ran into the churches
and burned up with the pictures
unafraid I saw them lying
I was small and mornings gleaned
ears of grain from the fields
when the midday hot was over
I practiced on the bike
or sat in our garden
wound jasmine to circular wreaths
laid them on the pretty
raised mounds of drowned birds
clatters the garden door now barks
this wandering dog
ah the father of my mother
drives me out of the full trees
and I stand before the rows
where the cold asters glisten
trample their late heads
under my postwar shoes

— Sarah Kirsch
(Trans. by Wayne Kvam)

German poet Sarah Kirsch changed her first name from “Ingrid” to “Sarah” during World War II to protest her country’s anti-Semitism. After the war, she was forced to emigrate to West Germany from East Germany because of her support for banned poet and songwriter Wolf Biermann.

[Research note: “Widely regarded German lyricist Sarah Kirsch dies,” Deutsche Welle, May 22, 2013]

Advertisements