Post-Script (Anno 1945)

(by Mascha Kaléko; translated from the German)

Bloch_portrait-of-a-boy
I’ve traveled far in thirteen years –
Although what I looked for was hardly romantic;
But without any taste for new frontiers
Still I seem to have crossed the Atlantic.

All that I had, I’ve left behind
But the moment I look around, I find
I’ve a child like the one my parents knew:
His parents are immigrants, through and through.

My son writes “ALIEN” – learning to spell.
He tells me, “Don’t speak German, dear.”
He’s eight. He wants to know, as well,
Is it “all right” not to be from here?

Just what I once asked Rector May!
And like me, too, in another way:
For he’s sure that peace will come to stay
Once the stupid War has gone away.

 

Image: Albert Bloch, Portrait of a Boy, 1911. This work is in the public domain.

The poem is a translation from the German of Mascha Kaléko, the title “Postscript” is a reference to her poem Interview With Myself (Interview mit mir selbst), to which this is an addendum, or sequel, or – taking Mascha at her word – postscript. It was published in the United States in her 1945 collection, Verse für Zeitgenossen; copyright in the book was registered in 1946 and was not renewed, and the poem is consequently in the public domain.

In her own words:

Post Scriptum
Anno Funfundvierzig

Inzwischen bin ich viel zu viel gereist,
Zu Bahn, zu Schiff, bis über den Atlantik.
Doch was mich trieb, war nicht Entdeckergeist,
Und was ich suchte, keineswegs Romantik.

Das war einmal. In einem andern Leben.
Doch unterdessen, wie die Zeit verrinnt,
Hat sich auch biographisch was ergeben:
Nun hab ich selbst ein Emigrantenkind.

Das lernt das Wörtchen «alien» buchstabieren
Und spricht zur Mutter: «Don’t speak German, dear.»
Muß knapp acht Jahr alt Diskussionen führen,
Daß er «allright» ist, wenn auch nicht von hier.

Grad wie das Flüchtlingskind beim Rektor May!
Wenn ich mir dies Dacapo so betrachte…
Er denkt, was ich in seinem Alter dachte:
Daß, wenn die Kriege aus sind, Frieden sei.

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