Gunter Eich


Wake up, your dreams are bad!
Stay awake, the nightmarishness is coming ever nearer.

To you too it is coming, though you live far from
                                                      the places of bloodshed,
even to you and your sacrosanct
afternoon nap.
If not today, then tomorrow,
but it will certainly come.
"Oh, pleasant sleep
on the cushions embroidered with red flowers,
Anita's Christmas present to you, she sat over the stitching for
                                                   all of three weeks,
oh, pleasant sleep,
following the juicy roast and the sprouts boiled to a pulp.
As you drift off you think of yesterday's
                                                Fox evening news:
frolicsome Easter lambs, the stirrings of nature, the opening of the new
                                                   casino in Baden-Baden,
with their new Australian coach, the Light Blues pip the Dark Blues
by two and a half lengths
                                       in the Varsity Race--
more than enough here to occupy the brain.

Oh the soft cushion, the first class goose down!
Lying on it, you forget the irritations of the world, this
                                                            item for instance:
the doctor accused of procuring an abortion said in his
the woman had seven children already, and she came to me with
                                                her youngest
swaddled in newspaper
because she was unable to afford diapers.
Well, these are the court's affairs, not ours.
There's nothing to be done if A has a cushier time of it than B,
and, whatever happens, our grandchildren can sort it out.

"Ah, asleep already? A pleasant waking then, friend!
The current is already live in the wire kraal, and the
                                                            sentries have been posted."

No, don't sleep while the arrangers of the world are busy!
Be suspicious of the power they claim
                                       to have to acquire on your behalf!
Stay awake to be sure that your hearts are not empty, when
                  others calculate on the emptiness of your hearts!
Do what is unhelpful, sing songs from out of your mouths
                              that go against expectations!
Be ornery, be as sand, not oil in the thirsty machinery
                                                of the world!

                                         German, trans. Michael Hofmann

Gunter Eich, German, trans. Michael Hofmann, Poetry, The Poetry Foundation,
April, 2007.