That Old Feeling

(by Mascha Kaléko; translated from the German) 

Erich Heckel, Still Life with Wooden Figure, 1913The first time that I thought to die
–I still recall the scene–
I died with so much skill and grace
In Hamburg, just the perfect place,
And I was just eighteen.

And when I died the second time,
It filled my heart with woe
That I could leave you nothing more
Than just my heart, laid at your door,
And footprints, red in snow.

And when I died the third time,
I hardly felt the pain;
Familiar as my toast and tea,
Like an old shoe, is death to me.
I needn’t die again.

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As to theories of spontaneous generation

1439407571_620cc3ee0e_o
Time was, we had to be cautious
since the dead world could quicken
and anything was always inexplicably
about to become an animal:
bare dirt birthed worms,
toads sprang full-blown from muck,
and nothingness bred mice
from stale bread, cheese, and a corner.

We now know that’s not the way of it:
life’s not spontaneous,
but always it’s the product of
some effortful seed
and some intent or accident of sperm;
life breeds life, and furiously
goes on living.

Not magic but poetry.

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Always Being Hungry

188743415_a43768d5b7_oCoyote ate up all the animals
Crow ate up all the birds
Pike ate up all the fish
Grasshopper ate up all the crops

So when Yaitse
That pasty-faced monster
Ate up the rainclouds
And the sun went crazy everywhere?

Nothing to eat but bones, we had
Nothing to drink but tears.

pike

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Kaddish

(by Mascha Kaléko; translated from the German)

Red shriek the poppies in the green fields of Poland.
Death lies in wait in the black forests of Poland.
Wheat rots, unharvested.
The reapers are all dead.
However much their mothers starve
The children cry for bread.

And frightened from their nests, the birds have ceased
To sing; the trees lift up their limbs for grief
And bow and whisper lamentation towards the east;
And when the wind takes up their sorrows like a prayer
And when they bow down like old Jews in attitudes of prayer
The broad, blood-sodden earth is shaken,
The stones themselves awaken.

This year, who will sound
The Shofar for the supplicants beneath the ground?
The hundred thousands whom no headstones name,
The hundred thousands God alone can name.

How shall they be entered into Heaven’s book aright?
Lord, we beseech you,
Let the prayers of the trees reach you
Tonight, as we light the last light.

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Still awake

3853566155_771f35d751_bThat time you lay with me
and the moon so bright

we doubted our own eyes: springtime,
and silver frost on the ground!

Like a blow, your absence.
I look for you under the bright moon
In the springtime

but the moon sinks. You are absent.

That’s why.

 

 

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what / should I fly

453px-Ernst_Ludwig_Kirchner_-_Maskentanz_-_1929

what

should I fly
unto
my senses

delight
with
crowns and rich apparel

dance and then depart

show
what magic can perform

and do
a thousand
deeds?

I
shall

Faustus 47 unredacted_RedactedFaustus 47 unredacted
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