Saturday, April 27, 2013

A Saturday's Reading: Express Train - Gottfried Benn (trans. Michael Hofmann)

I keep coming back to Gottfried Benn in the last translation issue of Poetry. Michael Hofmann, who also translated a book of Durs Grünbein a friend sent me for Christmas, nails these poems, putting them in situ and making them contemporary at once. They make me ready for summer, swimming, heat.


Brown. Brandy-brown. Leaf-brown. Russet.
Malayan yellow.
Express train Berlin-Trelleborg and the Baltic resorts.

Flesh that went naked.
Tanned unto the mouth by the sea.
Deeply ripened for Grecian joys.
How far along the summer, in sickle-submissiveness!
Penultimate day of the ninth month!

Parched with stubble and the last corn-shocks.
Unfurlings, blood, fatigue,
deranged by dahlia-nearness.

Man-brown jumps on woman-brown.

A woman is something for a night.
And if you enjoyed it, then the next one too!
O! And then the return to one’s own care.
The not-speaking! The urges!

A woman is something with a smell.
Ineffable! To die for! Mignonette.
Shepherd, sea, and South.
On every declivity a bliss.

Woman-brown drapes itself on man-brown:

Hold me! I’m falling!
My neck is so weary.
Oh, the sweet last
fevered scent from the gardens.

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