‘Journey’, by Günter Eich

You can turn away
from the leper’s rattle,
close your ears and windows
and wait for him to go.

But when you’ve heard it once,
you will always hear it,
and because he won’t leave,
you will have to.

Pack a bundle, not too heavy,
because no one will help you carry it.
Sneak out, and leave the door open behind you,
you’ll not be back.

Travel far to get clear of him,
take ship or go out into the wilderness:
the rattle of the leper will never stop.

You’ll take it with you while he stays behind.
That boom-boom-boom in your ears—
it’s the sound of your own heart!

– Günter Eich, Angina Days: Selected Poems (trans. Michael Hofmann; Princeton/Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2010), 35.


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