Zerplatztes Porzellan (Shattered Porcelain)

The following is an old poem of mine from 2004. Please scroll down for an English translation and commentary.

Das Böse dieser Welt ist überall
und wie zerplatztes Porzellan in meinem Kopf,
dessen Scherben meine Seele schneiden
und den Ozean der Verdammnis
mit Blut und Tränen füllen.

Hier ist deine Seele
ein Schiff in dunkler Nacht,
mein Herz ein rotes Segel,
aufgespießt auf einen Mast,
dessen Spitze feurig glüht.

Unser Fleisch ist längst verwest
und brennt auf Stirn und Lippen.
Das Verderben folgt mir nach
auf Schritt und Tritt
und auf dem Fuße.

Das erdrückende Gewicht
der Welt stürzt auf mich ein
wie glühend heiße Nägel,
die sich in die Augen bohren,
weil die Welt in Blut ertrinkt.

English translation

The evil of this world is everywhere
und like shattered porcelain in my head
whose shards cut my soul
and fill the ocean of condemnation
with blood and tears.

Here your soul is
a ship in the darkest night,
my heart a crimson sail
impaled upon a mast
whose top glows fervidly.

Our flesh has long since decayed
and burns on forhead and lips.
Doom follows me
at every turn
and hard on my heels.

The stifling weight of the world
comes crushing down on me
like scorching nails
that sink into the eyes,
as the world drowns in blood.


This poem, in contrast to the one I posted before, posed few difficulties with respect to its translation into English. First and foremost, the strength of the metaphors does not rely upon compounds. Instead, I chose a rather simple language and form (there are neither rhymes nor metres), while the metaphors – the pictures I paint with words – unfold over several lines. This allows them to remain in a steady flow on the one hand, but keeps them somewhat unpredictable as waves at sea on the other.
The lyrical self’s expression of despair is one big (and perhaps final) sigh of surrender. This is most prominent in lines four and five of verse three, which expresses the feeling that regardless of what the lyrical self does, however may describe or analyse the situation, it will always be and stay the same. No complication of words would serve this purpose, let alone improve it.
Interestingly, there is a lyrical you, a second person, vaguely addressed, but even this fact provides the lyrical self with no comfort. The reason for this may be that for the lyrical self, the lines between reality and the dark world to which it feels tied against its own will have long since blurred.


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