von Writers Ink.
Brunswick Harbour (2016)
Future-eating one-man bunkers.
Yes, the two of you, standing there, unsmiling,
At the bottom end of the old
Twinning for eternity. Round and streamlined
Like bombs dropped out of Hell, but
eyed, square mouthed,
Ridiculously hooded and altogether dead,
Dead except for your insatiability.
do you do it, with jaws and maws
Cast in concrete, devour, chew, digest
All that moves forward, ships, dockers,
And, for starters, those innocent rabbits
That hop and mate and nibble
Across the weeded ramps
and lanes. Where
Are the hands, that more than patent metaphor,
Of what was once the harbour clock?
down your ghastly throats, annihilated.
Clever, clever, and in your limited perception,
Un-eared, dead-eyed, as
you are, not inefficient, either.
But there is a harbour outside – or so I hope –
Your range of greed,
ringing with the thuds
Of world-travelling containers lifted onto trains,
A harbour bustling with commerce and
With barges, barely inches above the waterline,
That love to shove up mile-long billows
the Mittelland canal, before they rest the night,
But never turn to set these rusty cranes to work.
heaps, yes, I’ve seen them
And do not hesitate to call them goods;
They’ve taken root along the quay, and having
Befriended you, our pair of one-man bunkers,
Feel safe, like funny installations at museums.
of which, there is a band of artists coming,
Who know that the more run-down a place,
The better the
inspiration, curious people.
I tell you, when they see you – yes, you,
The bunkers, and I’m still talking to you
For the moment they’ll forget about that white façade
Of more or less the harbour’s only storehouse,
I am sure, floors and floors of obsoleteness.
That wall, so proud from all the grey,
Is meant to serve as
For some as yet unknown, elaborate light show.
(Because, artists these days cannot be bothered
stark blonde nudes in oil, or sculpturing
From granite heroic guys, wielding spade or assault rifle.)
So, as I
said, seeing you, the kids will stand there
Wondering, and before long they’ll peep and
Poke into your bellies,
and like good artists
Penetrate the rubble with their minds.
I hope they’ll find the entrance down,
to the horrid intestines of history.
And, hopefully before you act,
They’ll race back to their van and get out
Armfuls of equipment: projectors,
Cable drums, computers, parabolic mirrors.
And before nightfall there’ll
be: the slide.
Which inserted, will, my dears, my
Future-eating one-man bunkers,
Disappear you, will
disappear you altogether
Beneath a field of roses.
And I will stand
And watch and see what happens.
Die deutsche Übersetzung finden Sie hier
Einmannbunker am Hafen:
The Granary's Voice
With nightfall comes reflection.
Once the builders, traders, lever-pushers are gone
and have taken their noises
we regain our voices:
The canal laps up whatever stars, leaves or raindrops he
can catch, then talks about becoming a river,
hopping out of bed, one day;
of boldly flowing, where no bulldozer has gone before.
Their shift done, the young gantry cranes flex their sinews
and I listen politely, as they whinge and creak,
during the day they shuffled and stacked
containers from Hong Kong like Mahjong pieces.
Redundant as I am, I no longer have cargo for the barges,
but they share their voices, anyway. Same old, same
they gargle, diesel-drunk, and how they’d like to laze in the swell,
instead of hauling ore, scrap metal or
But then they murmur of landscapes and locks,
of destinations and docks, and of kissing quays in distant waters.
I, earthbound, obsolete, no longer a feeder of cattle or people,
I fall silent.
I have no regrets. I could have been built a munitions factory, or worse,
could have burned in storms of fire. Built
in ’33, need I say more?
Even though I am empty now, hollow, forever hungry,
without purpose or hope, I shall not
I’ll gladly tell you about the golden nuggets of wheat and barley
cascading from floor to floor, as though to measure
and about the dry whisper of black rapeseed and grey rye in my care,
and my endeavours to keep insects, mice
and pigeons out.
I’ll tell you about the tickle of the men, how they milled around
to keep the bread-in-waiting cool and dry,
they filled it into sacks, always busy, part of the great flow.
Until the men left for metal silos. Until the pigeons
And I, with too much emptiness inside, turned myself into shelter.
I used to think of them as enemies, as rapacious
but now their cooing keeps me company;
voices in their own right.
Die deutsche Übersetzung finden Sie hier
for Braunschweig Harbour
We dream in opposites. They inform us.
We, in the
flatlands, where the sea
is mainly a rumour, we have sails
in the fathomless centre of night
they are the white shadows frightened Lovers
mistake for ghosts, who canny matriarchs
touch, finger to canvas air, and shudder.
mother does not fear the lure of water?
shapeless, it is the ninety percent
of every child that eddies to freedom. That is,
Risk. The unfixable. The unbidden
prayer can't erase. Water. It sloshes
sons, daughters, rendering them unreliable,
strange. Strains the banks of family.
Opposites. Opposites. Water for heathland.
for wealth. We, Braunschweigers,
gentle, observant, earnest, land at every edge
our existence, we dream we also dwell
on the Baltic, in league with its league.
Landlocked Hansa. Yes. We stretch past
local streams and trade talk with the sea
we believe might be, sleep easy, lush with wealth.
parent, the priest, we bring water
the fold; tame it. Name it our own.
our young by dunking them in it.
them on feast days, like it or not.
them in it for punishment, pleasure
and routine. We hear we aren't unique:
Volga. Same. Same.
Lush. The river is bounty. Rushes to be cut, dried
woven into the thrones we stow in our guild houses,
our workplaces, at the head of our tables, the thatch
that crowns our homes. There are fish too, caught
by us at the market. Wherever there is Need
there is an exchange. Money for life.
Life for money. We traders supply the need
we didn't create. And we are the heart of town.
standers-back, the teachers, the philosophers,
us, we listen to the cheap
speak of the river; we have learned its letters;
know it is getting wily. Up to new tricks.
How to hide even when the sun pays
to the merchants. How
catch fish. The river is silting up.
And with a heart and a half, we look the other way.
Blank the kid pinching the plum, the doomsters
who say the river's running out –
wise. Pay no heed to pepper,
nutmeg, the burble of spice that hot tongued tinkers
peddle to fickle bellies. Cut our losses.
Say the Hansa trade is solid as rocks,
while we pull our boats from the encroaching ooze.
The talk of the river was the talk of the town.
It was the tittle-tattle of rittle-rattle pebbles,
tales. It kept gossip afloat. When it foundered
was a mud of silence, which some
for obsequy. No one but the water Readers
the end of freedom rippling in. But. Blame no-one.
shallow waters cut up choppy.
It was the encroaching dullness, caught our attention.
What wasn't dimmer was distorted. Our wives
told us they had told us we were captives in halls
of mirrors, river in sky, sky in river, and every harvest
between them brighter in the reflections. The Hansa
and half our autonomy was on their deck. Half
Our buoyancy gone, our gates flew open.
The Dukes surged in. Banned shanties.
seeps, fills. A storm in the Harz
raises the Oker, and the traders' hopes bob. Sun,
sinks, and they fall low. But in the pale
another tide rises. We, the philosophers
teachers, we the mathematicians and poets,
us, we engage ourselves with small sluices,
channels of thought we did not know we could think.
Our buoyancy surged from us, but not our will to float.
Every silk we traded, every bolt of calico
could, without a ripple of permission, turn
our hands. The millers' grain cascaded
through their stones. Horses' breath became mist
on the water meadows. When the brooks flooded
we nodded to ourselves, generation after dry
generation. Kept swimming.
We have found analogies for our calling
the buildings built for it. A college,
may say, becomes a scholarly confluence,
the estuary where salt and sweet theories
meet and become inseparable. Before they diverge.
We may say, in our certain uncertainties
college is not a culvert, my learned friends, but a canal.
Keep these streams: Wabe, Schunter, Time.
the swirl of a thousand thousand
unsung contracts, mergers, the sump of grief
recurrent shock of death; and between
the bubbles of trade left to us, the rise,
rise, rise of our extemporisation. Wars? Come
and go. Napoleon had no eye for business.
The Kaiser, neither. We watered the earth.
Water, formed, governed. Calculated.
twenty men take two minutes to drink
pipe of ale, you sir, at the back, how many
pies can you make from a ditch as Long
as a theoretician’s list of options, and if the answer
more than seven slag heaps how many backs
buckle, how many break, before the canal fills?
And. Earth moved, we heard. Collected in pyramids
on the road north. Bedrock, top soil, what
isn't fluid? A ditch to fill with cargo,
vessels on a man made flow. At beer we were gods
or engineers, inventing springs, sources, channelling
the Hansa. Time was a sail braced, swinging forward,
back, the clean clack of calico the tock and tick.
We saw barge ropes in our sinews. Prepared to dock.
are the beautiful things: the Tools
need to calculate created. The curve
the compass, the elegance of the ruler,
their variations. The laws of average
which a town expands to its new harbour,
the chance. Given the lack
the incalculable glamour of war.
Halved whales, those barges, when they came. High sea beasts
ripping the canal's silk surface with awful calm;
and the steel in their bellies, the new grain. We gulped it back
with a dash of propaganda. Told ourselves we walked
on water, in the right uniform. Believed the opposite
of what we thought. Till the city drowned in fire,
the sky spat sparks, boiling all reflections; and we
suspecting we'd earned this, learned to fear thirst.
eats the guts of deduction. We, the historians,
mediators of time, we had soot in our eyes at dawn,
if we'd painted caves with the hunters all night.
if the firestorm itself was a hypothesis
could reason away. First light, we stole to the towpath
measure the bluing of brown water. It was banked
cardboard khaki, Marshall planned. Food. Food. Food.
Opposites, opposites, rabble and silence,
and concrete, rivers and canals.
We took to building in our sleep,
visions, brick by white slab.
Water, wherever it ran, was a private pleasure,
a genetic tick, twitching the blood. The canal
silent, still, threading through bright as grain,
light as winter. Mistaken for mundane.
There is much to be said for seeing a dream,
we, the planners and navigators,
the dredger drivers, and pilots of barges, prefer
jargon of projects, maintenance, itineraries.
not believe that is our only dialect. This wide, grey, green tide-free
water, is our calling, our habitat.
sing its plainchant.
Hush. The stevedores have gone home; the great
containers shift in the earth's turn, China
setting into Holland. Metal waste
for the swaying frogs.
The harbour is dark, that is lit by two moons, and two stars
and we would not say which reflects which.
Sniff. Our town in this air. The scent of new coal,
fresh flour. In the granary, something germinates.
Rebecca Bilkau 2016
Die deutsche Übersetzung finden Sie hier