Shelterless

Shattered leaves from sheltered trees
They dry the bloodstains on the ground
To conquer all but seven seas
And kill what makes us safe and sound

I know, I know there is no time
Thus all falls to the river’s flood
For in our first breath lies our crime
Cleansed and washed away like mud

Shattered dreams from sheltered sleep
A memory stinging day and night
To fall apart where widows weep
And vulnerable to the light

I know, I know there is no space
Thus rain will drown our stifled cries
For this will always be the place
Where there’ll be no sun to rise

Rote Flut (Red Flood)

After a long time, I have finally written a new poem in German. Please scroll down for an English translation.

Auf der Stirne liegt ein Degen,
balanciert auf dem Gesicht.
Es sieht aus nach rotem Regen,
Sturmfront gegen Gleichgewicht.

Küßt du mich, dann muß ich sterben;
hälst du mich, seh ich das Licht;
meine Sicht wird rot sich färben,
so die Welt in Scherben bricht.

Schiffe wollen Anker werfen,
transportiern ein großes Heer;
soll ein Schmied den Degen schärfen,
bringt gewiß das rote Meer.

Auf der Stirne lag ein Degen;
aus dem Gleichgewicht der Nacht,
hat er, mit der Strömung Segen,
endlich rote Flut gebracht.

[English translation:
A sword is lying on the forehead,
balanced on the face.
It looks like red rain,
storm front against equilibrium.

If you kiss me, I must die;
if you hold me, I shall see the light;
my sight is to be coloured red,
as the world shatters into pieces.

Ships want to cast their ankers,
transporting a huge host;
a blacksmith shall whet the sword,
for certainly, it shall bring the red sea.

A sword was lying on the forehead;
from the balance of the night,
it has, with the blessing of the current,
finally brought a red flood.]

Nächte ohne Schlafgespann

The following is an old poem of mine I just found among some old hand-writings from 2006. The original hand-writing does not feature a title, but I consider the one I chose adequate. Please scroll down for an English translation. I am not content with the translation (see my commentary below), but fortunately, translating a poem is a crime from which you get off scot-free.

Nur für den Moment, in dem ich meine Augen schließe,
bleibt mein Herz stehn, da der Sommer wehmütig zerrinnt.
Und alles, was dahinter bleibt, ist atemloser Seelensturz
durch Nächte ohne Schlafgespann vor leeren Himmeln.

Das Seelennetz fängt die, die schlafen,
doch was, wenn sie des Schlafes Tiefe nicht ergründen,
wenn sie die Herzenstoten nur für schlafend halten,
als könnten ihre zarten Finger dem Sog der Leere trotzen?

Ich halte mich nur mühsam über Wasser,
und meine Lippen spiegeln blau den einst ersehnten Himmel,
da jedes Seemanns Schiff fänd einen Hafen –
Äonen müssen mir seitdem entglitten sein.

Noch auf ein Letztes schließe ich die Augen
und kehr zurück zu deinen Regenküssen,
bevor mich aller Drang zu neuen Sommern
zu Engelschören stiller Ewigkeiten treibt.

English translation

Just for the moment that I close my eyes
my heart stands still, as summer wistfully fades away.
And all that remains behind is breathless fall of the soul
through nights without a sleeping team before empty heavens.

The net of souls catches those sleeping,
but what if they don’t fathom sleep’s depths,
if they just deem those dead at heart asleep,
as though their delicate fingers could brave the pull of the void?

I hardly keep my head above water,
and my blue lips reflect the once-desired heavens,
for every sailor’s ship would find a haven –
eons must have slipped from me since then.

One last time I close my eyes
and return to your rainy kisses
before all urge to new summers
carries me to angelic choirs of still eternities.

Commentary

The German original contains several compounds that can by no means be adequately translated. While the first two lines of the first verse are comparatively unproblematic, the rest of the poem presents the translator with insurmountable obstacles. The English translation can, for its most part, be considered an attempt of an approach to the original at best. There is, for instance, no appropriate translation for ‘Seelensturz’, first and foremost because you cannot express this compound in a single English noun. The literal translation ‘soul fall’ neither makes any sense nor sounds any good.
I also struggled with the translation of the first half of the first verse’s third line: ‘Und alles, was dahinter bleibt, …’, because it does not mean that anything is left behind, but its meaning is rather both literal and metaphorical at the same time. You can imagine this as meaning something similar to ‘Her face remained behind her mask’, where ‘mask’ carries an additional metaphorical meaning.
Something similar applies to the fourth line of the first verse. How do you translate a line that purely consists of metaphorical expressions for which there are no equivalents in English? In German, there is the expression ‘Sternengespann’ (English ‘constellation’) – which you will not even find in most German dictionaries –, but in the line being considered, the first part, ‘Sternen’ (English ‘starry’), is replaced by ‘Schlaf’ (English ‘sleep’), again a compound you simply cannot translate with an equivalent. German ‘Gespann’ literally translates to English ‘team’ in the sense of ‘two or more animals, especially horses, in harness together to pull a vehicle’ [definition according to http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/team, 1.3]. ‘Sleep team’ or ‘team of sleep’ neither appear to make any sense nor sound any good (at least to me), so I was left with the alternative ‘sleeping team’.
The same holds true, in turn, for the third line of the second verse: ‘Herzenstoten’ is a compound consisting of the two nouns ‘Herz’ (English ‘heart’) and ‘(die) Toten’ (English ‘(the) dead’). I resolved to break the compound up into a demonstrative pronoun (‘those’), an adjective (‘dead’), a preposition (‘at’), and a noun (‘heart’), the entirety of which resembles the English expression ‘(those) sad at heart’. ‘Dead at heart’ is, to be sure, not supposed to mean ‘emotionless’, though. It rather means that someone suffered so much from love that they died from it. ‘Die of a broken heart’ would, by the way, mean something different in its turn. The latter expression describes a process, often a rather long one, whereas the former describes something that happens instantly. To use another common English expression, you may say that someone who is dead at heart was stopped dead in their tracks (by love).
Both in German and English, the respective words ‘Himmel’ and ‘heaven’ can either mean ‘sky’ or refer to a place beyond death as imagined by several religions. Although in modern English, ‘sky’ has prevailed as the preferred expression for the non-religious concept, ‘the heavens’ has remained as a literary expression, and it seemed proper to me throughout the poem. Nonetheless, it carries both meanings, at least to a degree, in the second line of verse three.
Moving to the next line, the German word ‘Hafen’ gave me some trouble. In fact, ‘port’, ‘harbour’, and ‘haven’ would all be adequate in their own right. While German ‘Hafen’ (which can mean both ‘harbour’ and ‘haven’) is obviously related to both ‘harbour’ and ‘haven’, the latter appeared to me the best alternative, since it carries the meanings ‘safe place’ and ‘shelter for ships or boats’.
In line two of verse four, I translated ‘Regenküsse’ simply as ‘rainy kisses’ for want of a better alternative. It is not correct, however, because the kisses referred to are not rainy in nature or related to rain, but they are rain – in the sense of the poem, that is.
I hope that, despite all the difficulties of translation, the poem is still enjoyable in English.

Prometheus

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The air is fresh and cool tonight. Its silence fills my head, and its loneliness surrounds me. The memories of a lifetime pass by, paralleled by the inevitable insight that nothing will ever change. The faces keep passing by and are replaced by others, but the rest – relationships, events, love, hatred, trust, the final treason, pain, regret, emptiness, pointlessness – ceaselessly repeats itself in a vicious circle.
The bypassing memories suddenly come to an abrupt halt – you. I can think of nothing else, as I behold, enthralled by a slightly uneasy awe, the goddess smile playing on your velvet lips forming your well-shaped mouth which is only surpassed by the sparks emitted by your darkish eyes. For a moment, I catch my breath and my heart appears to collapse, eager to burst the suddenly too confined ribcage keeping it. I shudder, and I am at a loss for words. I feel cold, and as I look outside, the night has crept on the sky, leaving me standing with my back to the wall.

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There is no hope. I am a modern Prometheus of love. The vultures pick at my heart, rip it out of my chest, and devour it eagerly. But alas, until the next day, all will have been restored in order that the torture may continue for ever, and no Hercules is to come so as to release me.

Peter Paul Rubens 032

Smile

Smile, sweet love, bring on the light
Into this never-ending dark.
Your eyes pervade the foggy night
And warm my broken, frozen heart.

Smile, sweet love, and do not fear,
I shall protect you from the storm.
No harm can reach you here, my dear,
And from your shine hope is reborn.

Smile, sweet love, you do not know
Just what you are, what you can do.
Forget about your childhood’s woe,
And trust me, I shall see you through.

Sometimes, I meet people, especially girls and women, who completely underestimate their true potential – which makes me sad. Indeed, this poem was inspired by someone like this. But I shall try to make you see. This is a promise.

Mirror

The nights come tumbling down in flocks,
Ancient is the stars’ desire,
Rivers running side by side,
Dreams of death wrapped up in fire
Are spoken unto me to mock.

And while the winds of ashes call,
Howling, glooming, red disaster,
Pain alongside shades of pride,
I must now behold the master
Who long ago prepared my fall.

In disbelief of what I spy,
I feel numb, and yet I shiver,
Black hole yawning, gaping wide,
As I stare into the mirror,
The only thing to see is I.

Vergiftete Gedanken (Poisoned Thoughts)

The following is a text I wrote four years ago when I suffered from the most severe depressive episode so far. Scroll down for the English translation.

Die Flüsse der Bitterkeit, so in meinem Herzen zusammenlaufen, haben ein Meer geboren ohne Hafen, und von der Reise, auf welche sie mich mitgenommen, gibt es keine Wiederkehr. Das Glück, so lautet die Erkenntnis, welchem ich teilhaftig geworden, habe ich nicht verdient, viel weniger aber noch die Erfüllung meines einzigen sehnsüchtigen, ja wehmütigen Wunsches: die eine große Liebe zu finden nämlich, einen Menschen, den ich mit dem, was in meinem Innersten ruht, doch geradezu darauf brennt, geweckt und hinausgelassen zu werden, vollkommen erfüllen könnte. Es bedarf dazu keines Glaubens an die Liebe, denn ich weiß, daß es sie gibt, so sie doch in mir wohnt sein Anbeginn der Zeiten. Allein es ist mittlerweile ebenso gewiß, daß sie auch am Ende derselben, so es denn eines geben mag, noch dort sein wird, unzerstörbar zwar, aber verkümmert. Sie ist nämlich wie eine Blume, welcher bei jedem Versuche, aufzublühen, das Wasser entzogen wird, die zwar verwelkt, aber nicht eingeht, und also die Fähigkeit bewahrt, neue Blüten hervorzubringen. Sie ist ein Schein, so die tiefste Nacht zu durchdringen vermag, von vielen bemerkt, von wenigen geachtet, von niemandem acceptiert.
Wenn eine solche Liebe folglich kein Object findet, an welchem sie haften könnte, an welchem sie einen Halt fände und, wichtiger noch, einen Endzweck ihres Daseins, ingleichen dessen Erfüllung, was bleibt zu tun, als einer unerträglichen Demut vor der eignen Nichtswürdigkeit zu verfallen? Sie wird einem somit zur Last, zu einer unabstreifbaren Bürde, so es einem weder zu leben noch zu sterben ermöglicht, es nicht gestattet, daß man sich ihrer auch nur für einen Augenblick entledigte.
Ich stehe längst nicht mehr vor den Toren der Verzweiflung: ich habe die Stadt lange betreten und, wie jeder, so sich einmal hineinbegeben, nimmermehr hinausgefunden, denn ihre eng verwinkelten Gassen ziehen sich dahin als ein Labyrinth, das nicht mehr zu verlassen ist. Diese düsteren Straßen nämlich, von nichts als Schattenbildern verlorner Seelen bevölkert, werden einem allzuschnell vertraut, sie prägen sich einem ins Gedächtnis, langsam zwar, aber mit Nachdruck, so daß die Erinnerung an bessere Zeiten zu verblassen beginnt, sie sie schließlich vollständig ausgelöscht. Stets dieselben Pfade zu beschreiten indes, führt zu keiner neuen Erkenntnis, und ohne eine solche ist es unmöglich, die Pfade des Verderbens zu verlassen. Dieser Kreislauf nun ist unentrinnbar, und vor diesem Wahnsinn kann man nicht wie vor den meisten alltäglichen Dingen die Augen schließen oder sich die Ohren zuhalten. In jedem Augenblicke glaubt man, im nächsten zu zerspringen, und man wäre nur allzu bereit, dies hinzunehmen, so es einem die Erlösung brächte – allein es mag doch nicht geschehen.
Ich habe zu leben versucht, es wahrhaftig versucht, indem ich Menschen meine Liebe zuteil werden ließ, allein ich bin gescheitert, in so vielfältiger Weise gescheitert, daß es mir unerträglich geworden. Also habe ich zu sterben versucht, es willentlich versucht, indem ich mich der Selbstentleibung anvertraute, indes, ich bin auch daran gescheitert, am Zynismus des grausamen Lebensflusses, so bald die schweren Stunden ins Unendliche zu dehnen, bald aber die unbeschwerten zu Bruchteilen von Sekunden zu verkürzen beliebt. Und wiewohl man die Hoffnung auf Genesung schon vor Äonen hat fahren lassen, bleibt doch die Sehnsucht danach, es möchte einen andren, gar erreichbaren Zustand geben, eine blinde Utopie zweifelsohne, so einem Trugbilder vorspiegelt, einen bisweilen in nachgerade euphorischer Weise zu beflügeln beliebt, um einem mit dem jähen Absturze erneut das Rückgrat zu brechen. Soviel Erbauliches, soviel Erhabnes, was der Mensch erdenkt und ersehnt, wie schön es wäre, gäbe es nur diese unüberwindliche Distanz zwischen uns nicht, könnten wir einander wirklich nahe sein, endlich in einen allumfassenden Zustand der Seelengemeinschaft, der Seeleneinheit1 gar, übergehen – all das, nur um zuletzt in einem dunklen Loch in der Erde verscharrt und über die Generationen vergessen zu werden, zu vermodern und endlich zu Staub zu zerfallen.
Mir ist so schrecklich kalt.

[The rivers of bitterness which unite in my heart have borne a sea without a harbour, and there is no return from the journey on which they have taken me. The happiness I enjoyed, thus is the conclusion, I do not deserve, let alone the fulfilment of my only, fervent, nay wistful wish to find the one true love, that is, a human whom I can fulfil with that which lies deep within me, but almost burns to be woken up and let out. There is no need for belief in love, for I know that it exists, since it has dwelled inside me from the beginning of time. Yet meanwhile, it has become equally certain that it will still be there at the end of times, if there be one, indestructible, but withered. For it is like a flower which, at every attempt to blossom, is deprived of water, which wilts, but does not die, and therefore retains the ability to blossom again. It is a shine able to permeate the darkest night, recognized by many, respected by few, accepted by no one.
If, therefore, such a love finds no object on to which it could cling, in which to find support and, even more importantly, a final purpose of its existence, moreover its fulfilment, what remains to do save becoming a slave to an unbearable humility of one’s own baseness? Thus, it becomes a burden, an unwipable burden, which allows one neither to live nor to die, which does not allow one to rid oneself of it for a single moment.
I am not standing before the gates of despair, after all: I have long entered the city and, as everyone who once has entered it, I have never found a way out, for its narrow-winding lanes extend like a labyrinth which can never be left. For one becomes familiar with these gloomy thoroughfares, crowded by nothing but lost souls, all too soon, they form a map in one’s memory, slowly, but vigorously, so that all memory of better times begins to cease, until it has been completely extinguished. Always wandering the same paths, however, will bring no knew knowledge, and without such, it will be impossible to escape the paths of disaster.
This circle now is inescapable, and in face of this insanity one cannot close one’s eyes or cover one’s ears as with most everyday issues. In each moment, one believes to burst in the very next, and one would be all too willing to take this in in case it would bring one relief – yet it does not come to pass.
I tried to live, truly tried, by letting humans partake in my love, yet I failed, failed in so many ways that it became unbearable for me. Therefore, I tried to die, tried it deliberately, by placing myself in suicide’s hands, and yet I failed at this as well, at the cynicism of life’s cruel flow, which soon extends hard times to infinity, soon reduces carefree ones to infinitesimal parts of seconds. And even though one let go of the hope of recovery aeons ago, there yet remains the desire for a different, even attainable state of affairs, doubtless a blind utopia which deludes one with false pretences, sometimes virtually inspires one in a euphoric manner so as to break one’s spine in virtue of the abrupt fall. So many edifying things, so many magnificent things of which Man conceives, how good everything would be, if only there were not this insurmountable distance between us, if only we could be really close to one another, finally reach an all-comprising state of community of minds, even unity of minds1 – all of this just to be buried in a dark hole in the ground and to be forgotten over the generations, to moulder and finally fall to dust.
I feel so terribly cold.]

Anmerkungen [Notes]
1. »Seele« ist an dieser Stelle selbstredend im nichtreligiösen, nichtspirituellen Sinne zu verstehen. [Here, ‘mind’ is, needless to say, to be understood in non-religious, non-spiritual terms.]