Dialogue on Time
The past never ends, the present is just
the past in disguise. The yet leafless trees,
the wash pan in the dirt, covered with rust
the paper sack floating up in the breeze,
fluttering on moist March air to and fro,
interlaced weavings of branches above
and their earthbound twins, the roots down below,
springtime this year, or four decades ago,
they never are passed, the things that I love.
But time like a guillotine crashes down.
Betwixt past and present the bloodied edge
slides. The wind lifts from the clothesline a gown
that settles now by the base of the hedge,
it doesn’t fly back to the line again.
If you carelessly light a cigarette
a little too near the leaky gas main,
there is no path leading back from the flames,
they’re two different worlds, ”yet now” and ”not yet.”
Like the mine for forty years in its hole
patiently waits for the hand that at last
will unfetter the explosion, its soul,
as this spring is haunted by springtimes passed,
encasing decades in layers of ice,
both love and hatred will patiently wait,
till into old wounds a new blade will slice,
hate neither dwindles, nor will love abate,
love never passes, and neither does hate.
Worms in the dirt, like long ago: a flower.
But it’s not the same dirt, not the same shrub.
The spider climbing around in the shower
and the one washed down the drain in the tub,
the same, and yet not the same. No schemes
of genes can bring your dead mother back, dreams
alone. What dark feelings show to be one
is strange, varied in the light of the sun.
Yet what in the light of day appears strange
in the night, always familiar, awaits.
Outside time boils, bubbles, froths, dissipates,
inside is something that never will change.
The moon of childhood ever brighter above
the porch of old age. Old wounds never heal,
no present, just past in new guise. I still
love the one I always have loved.
Song on Time
A wristwatch under water, in the dirt a comb,
a bird’s corpse lying in the snow…
There in the drawer that was hit by a bomb
a Christmas card from a century ago.
A bundle of photos, someone who’s now no more
leans down towards a child beside a river’s shore,
dark hair fluttering in a summer’s gust.
Slivers from beneath the ruins of a home
that in the fires of time has burnt to dust.
The flashlight strives with its pale fading glow
to salvage something from the dark of night,
kindle into borrowed life what is no
more. Decades of the past, now ash, gleam bright
in the jagged shards of the shattered looking-glass.
As foam over the rocks in the stream will amass,
as ripples in calm water rise, then fall,
in the end a wrinkleless nothing, quite
as if there’d been nothing there at all.
Translated by Thomas Cooper