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.

More information about Mascha Kaléko, and my translation of another of her poems, can be found here.

Image: Erich Heckel, Still Life with Wooden Figure, 1913; in the public domain in the United States.

Poem: Das berühmte Gefühl by Mascha Kaléko.

Das berühmte Gefühl

Als ich zum ersten Male starb,
– Ich weiß noch, wie es war.
Ich starb so ganz für mich und still,
Das war zu Hamburg, im April,
Und ich war achtzehn Jahr.

Und als ich starb zum zweiten Mal,
Das Sterben tat so weh.
Gar wenig hinterließ ich dir:
Mein klopfend Herz vor deiner Tür,
Die Fußspur rot im Schnee.

Doch als ich starb zum dritten Mal,
Da schmerzte es nicht sehr.
So altvertrau wie Bett und Brot
Und Kleid und Schuh war mir der Tod.
Nun sterbe ich nicht mehr.

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