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At the San Juan Cemetery in Puerto Rico

 

Red roses climb up from the graves on the quiet hillside,

To gently caress marble benches.

From out of the laurel

Sounds the sweet and enticing songs of the birds

A stone angel listens.

A thick carpet of ivy covers a winding path,

Crawling everywhere—

Until at last even the path is lost.

A mountain of bleached bones grows high.

No money, no grave!

Here lie the exiled, no cross for them and no bragging memorials.

Gypsies, beggars, fidgety musicians.

Oh how the sun shines on their skulls!

I take off my hat and greet these relatives,

Those that didn’t pay their last rent.

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Mother

Mother

 

Mother, dear mother, dream of happiness!

—Look! I kneel before you in the evening hours,

Kiss the deep wounds of your heart.

Dream of happiness mother, dream of happiness!

Your ruler has always measured me in moderation,

Your ears have always listened to my words.

When I was wild—you have excused me,

When I was bad—you have forgotten it.

Mother, dear mother, dream of happiness!

—lay your head in my strong arms,

Let my songs be a colored bridge leading you

Far away from all sorrows and harm!

Light hearted pennants decorate my boat,—

As it travels back to Avalon, the land of the fairies!

Mother, do you see me standing there as the pilot?

Will you come with? —and —will you laugh,

Dear mother?

Water lilies!—see how I pluck them!

The waves splash!—the wind is in the sail!

White birds of summer soar in the distance!

—Ah, you can dream there mother,

Dream of happiness!

Chrysthanthemums

Kätie read my songs
And wants me to write
About chrysanthemums,
Chrysanthemums —

The flowers that Kätie loves.

So I sit down at my desk,
I put my head in my hands
And I search, search
For the soul of this flower—

And I think:

Yes, — — I know of two images
That can assist me on the trail —

The first: The fine touch of the Frenchman,
Pierre Loti. He sensed it and described it
In “Madame Chrysthanthème”
In the foggy tones of “The Boys of Glasgow”,
He borrowed the image from Whister,
Taking it as his own vision. —

Yet this flower speaks differently to me,
No, I can not find its faint sound
Or its essence —

Let me search further —

And the other image?

In the house of my mother
Hangs in the hall
An engraved face
Of the Madonna
Engraved out of
Splendid white crystal
And framed with ebony.

The Sixtina — and on both sides
Are found two little shelves
That hold large gray vases.
In the vases mother
Always placed chrysanthemums,
Always chrysanthemums.
Why only chrysanthemums?

Yes, mallow should have been placed there
Red, white and violet mallow!
I search for the soul of this flower
Why can’t I find a trace anywhere?

I must ask Kätie!

“Kätie! Kätie!”

Kätie comes and rocks in the chair!

“Oh you big fool! — you brood, brood,
Meditate, think — and have nothing
To say about my favorite flower?

Then listen:

The coquette shepherd girl
Of Trianon at a feast
Wove colored chrysanthemums
On her shepherd’s staff —

At the ball Kätie laughed and danced
And on her white shoulders laughed
Colored chrysanthemums
Fluttering like leaves, like the colored
Shepherd’s garland playing in the wind.

Forgetting all her troubles and worries
And for a few short hours
Giving herself up to love’s sweet caresses,
Filling her poor senses!

You see — that — is all it is!”

And I knelt,

“Kätie, let me kiss you shoulders,
Kiss the flowers on your shoulders,
Your bright chrysanthemums — Katharina!”

Geneology

Geneology

Father was a painter,
Mother was a painter.
They rhymed together
And were of like minds.

Father came from the north,
Mother lived on the Rhine.
There the son of a blacksmith
Courted the patrician’s daughter.

She was no fool
And made the right choice.
Her cheerful father
Was general of the cavalry
And son of a Rhinish art collector.
His family had been saving their coins
For over five hundred years now.

Now, father’s father
Was an anchor-smith.
He sounded his hammer song
In Wismar on the Baltic.
And received his old forge
From his father before him
He was really vexed
When his own son never
Became a smith.

That is my family tree
On both father’s and mother’s side
Here hangs the youngest apple
And isn’t he clever?

Iris

Iris

Morning mist, thin morning mist,
Lies suspended all around,
Veils the early scarce awoken sun.
Yet it has a moist fragrance,
That’s when the wanderer
Strides firmly with light feet,
When the young lad sets off eagerly
Through the mist into the world
When he walks vigorously through
The wet meadows,
Further,
Walks further,
With light steps.

The fiery blue Iris is eager as well,
Lonely, taciturn
Throughout the moist
Morning mist,
They open eagerly as well
Throughout the wet
Meadows ――

Ask the wanderer where he is walking,
Just ask him why he wanders alone ―
He will silently shrug his shoulders
And lightly walk
Further,
Walk further.
― This eagerness is without reason,
Purposeless, aimless,
Without end:
It is only a movement, a pull, a walking
Through the moist
Morning mist
And the wet
Meadows ――

In the distance you can still hear
The light steps of the wanderer.
In the distance you can still see
The gleam of the opening Iris ――
Do you know the
Eagerness of the wanderer
There in the mist?
Do you know the eagerness
Of the fiery blue
Iris?

Oh, you know it:
It is in you, in you!

Orchids

Orchids

When the Devil
was a woman
She was Lilith
Her black hair coiled
In heavy knots
Surrounding her head
Like a Botticelli ruff
When she smiled tiredly
At the gold bands
And colored stones
On all of her narrow fingers
When she read Villiers
And loved Huysmans
When she understood
Maeterlinks silence
And her soul bathed
In the colors
Of Gabriel d’Annunzlo
She once laughed
And when the Princess
Laughed a little serpent
Sprang out of her mouth
This most beautiful Devil
Stroked the serpent
This queen stroked the serpent
With her be-ringed fingers
So that it turned, hissed,
Hissed, hissed
And sprayed venom
Lilith collected the drops
And sprinkled them
Over her heavy copper vase
Of moist earth,
Black, moist earth
Her vast hands moved lightly
All around the
Heavy copper vase
Caressing it
Softly her pale lips sang
Her old spell
Her spell rang
Like a child’s rhyme
Soft and languid,
Languid like the kisses
From her mouth
The moist earth drank
And life arose in the vase
Enticed by her languid kisses
Enticed by her soft sounds
And slowly out
Of the black earth crept
Orchids-
In front of the favorite
Mirroring her
Pale features
Surrounded with
Botticelli vipers
Creeping sideways
Out of the copper vase
Orchids-
Devil’s flowers
Those of the old earth
That through Lilith’s spell
And specially prepared
Serpent’s venom
Had been brought
Into the light,
Orchids-
Devil’s flowers

-Hanns Heinz Ewers

Sphinx

(Der Arme Teufel, 19 December 1889)
Translated by Joe E Bandel
Copyright 2009 by Joe E. Bandel

Sphinx

The stony sphinx lies there in the wilderness.

Impotent sphinx, foolish sphinx.

Which riddle did the son of Oedipus solve?

How blindly and miserably he must have wept

At the murder of his father and the marriage night

With his mother.

Your swollen feet will never again limp,

No,  you will never again dare tell the riddle,

-The one in sheepskin-That one-

But I ponder it. Yes, I will complete it!

I will not allow this to happen,

Your cold stone should be listening,

Should be breathing with life.

My only desire is to raise you,

To awe you with my power and my love!

Are you willing? Are you willing?

You are! You are!

Dead sphinx, mighty sphinx awaken.

Now your eyes glow, your hair flutters.

I hold your head and kiss your mouth.

There, beat your paws upon my breast,

Live, love, in wild embrace-

Ah-

Glorious red  blood of murder!

Drops of blood are the answer

To a hundred riddles.

-Hanns Heinz Ewers