I envy all those who are capable of forgetting,
who calmly go off into dreamless sleep.
I even envy myself for odd moments of blind contentment,
reaching a vacation destination, whether North Sea spa or Notre
or with a nice drop of Burgundy on pay day.
But basically I’m of the view that even a clear conscience is not
and I doubt the quality of the sleep in which we all rock ourselves.
There is no such thing as pure happiness any more (was there
and I should like to rouse this or that sleeper,
and say, there, that’s enough.
Where you once leaped up out of the arms of love
because a scream reached your ear, the scream
that the earth utters incessantly, which you
take to be the patter of raindrops or the soughing of wind.
Look at what’s happening: prison and torture,
blindness and amputation, death in many guises,
disembodied pain and dread that stands in for life.
Th e earth collects up the groans from many mouths,
and the expressions of people you love are full of horror.
Everything that happens concerns you.
At the given hour, I will nonetheless think that the world was
I will think of friends, of the kindness that can beautify an ugly face,
of love that causes the eyes to light up.
I will think of the dog, my playmate when I was a boy,
of the blue lupins on the coast of East Prussia where I once went on
I will revisit the long shadows of the firs on the Bauernschmied
and climb the Gederer once more with Emmy Gruber,
I will remember the flights of migrating birds over the airfi eld at
and the smell of the beer cellar of the Inn zum Hirschen which
belonged to my grandfather,
of elderfl ower, rapeseed and poppy, glimpsed from the window of a
of the blush on the face of the fourteen year old Gabriele Dembitza,
of the red and green lights of an airplane fl ying under the
constellation of Cassiopeia,
of dancing under paper lanterns on Bastille Day,
the smell of fruit in the morning on the stands in front of the castle
I will think of the quivering heart of the lizard that spotted me,
and a poem in Goethe’s “West-East Divan” that gave me comfort.
There are road signs,
and easily discernable river courses,
lookout points in elevated positions,
maps where the lakes are in blue and the forests in green —
it’s easy to find one’s way around in the world.
But you, companion at my side, how hidden from me
is the landscape of your heart!
Feeling my way in the fog, I am oft en overcome with fear
of the thickets and the hidden precipice.
I know you don’t like your thoughts to be traced,
the echo of your words is intended to mislead —
roads going nowhere,
pathless terrain, lapsed signage.
Each century provides us with new things to conceal,
a territory that off ers no purchase to the curious eye of affection,
overgrown with loneliness, its ever denser leaves.
Günter Eich, Angina Days: Selected Poems, Michael Hoffman (trad.), Princeton University Press, 2010.