Summer 2008

Table of Contents - Vol. IV, No. 2


Poetry    Translations    Non-Fiction    Fiction    Essays   

Hans Magnus Enzensberger


In a College Textbook

don’t read odes, my son, read timetables:
they are more exact, unroll the sea-charts
before it is too late, be on guard, don’t sing.
the day will come again when they paste blacklists upon the door
and place their mark on the no-sayers,
learn to pass unidentified, learn more than I:
how to change your living quarters, passport, face.
understand the small betrayal,
the sordid daily escape, useful
are the wide-spread fire starters,
the manifestoes: wrapped-up butter and salt
for the defenseless. anger and endurance are necessary
to blow a fine deadly dust
into the lungs of power, ground up
by those such as you who have learned much
and are fastidious in their ways.


The Sleepwalking Ear

How will you ever fall asleep again,
when in the peopleless hour
before first light
the house knocks and scrapes,
when you hear it murmur
behind the wall?

These shots, do they come from a film
that nobody sees,
or is someone dying there on the stairs?
Something coos where no pigeon lives,
something moans— an old refrigerator
or a long lost pair of lovers.

Through the valves gas hisses.
Heavy furniture is moved.
Something drips. The steam ticks.
Water rushes through the pipes.
Who's drinking, who's showering,
who's relieving themselves there?

And when at last it is quiet—
the house holds its breath before fear—
you hear a humming,
nearly inaudible,
ghostly thin as the glittering ring
of an unstoppable counter

that turns in the dark.


No Connection Under this Number

Now that she's awake, she doesn’t know
how she got into this room. But the stairs,
she thinks, were ramshackled and crooked.
Everywhere she smells lilac. But she knows
these white curtains that billow, billow.
The same moth sits on the worn armchair.
It trembles, its wings gleam, mealy and soft.
Biochemistry. She has studied biochemistry. But where
is the light switch? Where is her ballpoint pen
at, the old pocketbook, the car keys?
This is still insanity. She listens. She raises
the window. She is naked, she shudders,
twitches, stretches her chilled toes. She thinks:
but this moth, this vague desire,
the white candles of the chestnuts over the fence—
all this is explainable. No freight train rattles
as it rumbles past, not even a clock
ticks here. But without history, she thinks,
without newspapers, preparations, I am lost.
Everything that dies amid the coming madness
and returns: the naked skin, the moonlight,
the moth with its white feelers that search,
search, and the smell of lilac in this high room.
But everything is there, exactly like a hundred years ago.


Privileged Facts of the Case

It is forbidden to set people on fire.
It is forbidden to set people on fire in possession
of a valid green card.
It forbidden to set people on fire who uphold
the laws and are in possession of a valid green card.
It is forbidden to set people on fire who
are not thought to endanger the continuance
and security of the United States of America.
It is forbidden to set people on fire who do not
arouse suspicion with their behavior.
This particularly applies to youngsters who, in view
of the lack of leisure opportunities and their ignorance
of the relevant regulations or because
of difficulties in orientation are psychologically endangered,
are forbidden to set people on fire they do not respect.
In consideration of the reputation of the United States of America
abroad it is urgently advised against.
It isn't proper. It isn't normal.
It shouldn't become the rule.
It doesn't have to be this way.
No one is obligated.
No one will be reproached if they decline
to set a person on fire.
Each enjoys a fundamental right to refuse.
Suitable applications are to be submitted
to the Municipal Office of Public Order.



She doesn't want me to speak of her
She won't be captured on paper
She suffers no prophets

She is a stranger
But I know her
I know her well

She overthrows all that is held fast
She doesn't lie
She rebels

She alone justifies me
She is my sanity
She doesn't belong to me

She is strange and insistent
I conceal her
like a disgrace

She is fleeting
No one can share her
No one can keep her for themselves

I withheld nothing
I share everything with her
She will leave me

Others will harbor her
in her victorious escape
through the very long night


Camera Obscura

In my four temporary walls
made of firwood
twelve by fifteen by eight feet
in my tiny room
I am alone

alone with baked apples, with darkness,
the sixty watt bulb,
the army, the owl

with the paperweight made of blue glass,
with cybernetics, with death,
with the paster rosette

with the "God be with us"
and the pondside path in Kaufbeuren
(Admin. Reg. Swabia)
alone with my spleen

with my godfather Rabmeuller,
gassed twenty years before,
alone with the red telephone
and much I do not want to remember.

Alone with every Tom, Dick and Harry,
Bouvard and Pécuchet,
the whole kit and caboodle,
Pontius and Pilate.

In my endless room
twelve by fifteen by eight feet
I am alone with a spiral nebula
of images

of images of images
of images of images of images
encyclopedic and empty
and not to be second-guessed

alone with my temporary brain
in which I discover baked apples,
the darkness, my godfather Rabmeuller,
and much that I want to forget.


© Jim Doss



Poetry    Translations    Non-Fiction    Fiction    Essays   

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