Günter Eich

‘End of August’, by Günter Eich

The white bellies of dead fish
loom among duckweed and rushes.
Crows have wings to enable them to escape death.
There are times I know that God
is most concerned with the fate of snails.
He builds them houses. We are not His favorites.

At night, the bus taking the football team home
leaves a white trail of dust.
The moon shines in the willow herb,
in concert with the evening star.
How near you are, immortality—in the wings of bats,
in the pair of headlights
nosing down the hill.

– Günter Eich, Angina Days: Selected Poems (trans. Michael Hofmann; Princeton/Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2010), 45.

‘Topography of a Better World’, by Günter Eich

Vain the cruel hope
that the screams of the tortured
might pave the way for a brighter future:

observe whose voice trembles with emotion,
whose heart is stirred
when the rolls are changed
at twenty-eight minute intervals.

Greetings, cemeteries!

– Günter Eich, Angina Days: Selected Poems (trans. Michael Hofmann; Princeton/Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2010), 87.

‘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.