Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Erich Fried


 Why are you
 still writing
 knowing that
 by this method
 you accomplish
 only small things

 my friends ask
 impatient that
 their methods only
 accomplish small things

 and I
 have no answer
 for them


 He knows how boring it would be
 if poetry were made only
 of the contradictions of society
 and that it would be better to write
 of pines in the morning
 so that immediately a poem occurs to him
 on the necessity of changing themes
 and his decision
 to write of pines in the morning

 but even when he really gets up early enough
 to be driven to the pines at morning
 does anything occur to him of their image and odor?
 or does he catch himself on the ride thinking:
 should we get there
 and they by chance have already fallen
 to lie without branches on the sandy cliffs
 between sawdust twigs and fallen needles
 because some speculator has bought the land

 that would be very sad
 but the smell of the sap would be stronger
 and the morning light on the sawed-off yellow stumps
 would be brighter because no longer would
 the crowns stand in the sun’s way. This
 would make for a new impression
 and certainly more than enough
 subjective experience
 to allow for a poem
 of accusation against this society.


 If I had not learned from Saigon
 that Sergeant Luong always giggled
 as he faced the prisoners of war
 whom he shot
 I would not now
 whenever I hear laughter
 think of “Laughing Larry”
 and of Ky’s words “My model is Hitler”

 If I had not learned
 of what happened in Vietnam
 my life would be easier
 although some say
 there’s nothing you can do about it
 and therefore it doesn’t make sense
 for you to spoil our joy in life
 for us and for yourself

 But when I resolve on silence
 I see Sergeant Luong
 and Air Force General Ky
 here at home, with different names
 to be sure, cleaning their teeth
 in order to face us prisoners
 with bright smiling laughter


 The freedom to open the mouth
 exists even here
 where others cry:
 these mouths are to be shut!

 So much so
 one need only posit a list
 of everything that may come
 out of their mouths supposedly shut

 First screams
 second at the beginning
 and finally at the end
 perhaps even protests

 Third teeth
 and fourth blood and filth
 and sixth in many cases

 that were first injected
 through tubes or
 through immersions of the head

 One must not have a one-sided view
 because the freedom to open the mouth
 is an equal right for all
 and certainly for the authorities as well

 to open the hard-bitten mouth
 of the prisoner
 What to put in it?
 Much water or much oil

 or the heel of boots
 or dirt and bloody rags
 or urine
 or sawdust or earth

 so that there comes out of it
 if everything works well
 the freely willed

 Sometimes the mouth gets hurt
 but there’s always the freedom to open it
 which will continue to govern – in one way or another –
 throughout our land


 Where does war kneel?
 where does it wait for forgiveness
 full of humility on the dusty roads?

 rides its hooves over fairy tales
 lies saddle desire
 to ride it once more to market
 and again to shame

 of stallion and snake
 what was that?
 the dream stops

 and in the waking nightmare I see
 that post-war
 is once more pre-war


 In the first years
 of reconstruction
 there still remains
 a deplorable
 of luxury goods

 what will then
 be sold in the Co-op
 for real wolf skin
 used to be our black sheep
 deceptively redone


 With misfortune it is always assumed
 that fortune
 must be simple
 and misfortune crooked and confused

 It is unfortunate that misfortune
 always muddles
 the eye and robs the vision
 of its compelling form

Could we once see
the inner logic of misfortune
we would love its classical features

free of crooked
confusing pre-judgments
that would be misfortune’s fortune


There where the mighty
 listen to words of reason
 there the wise are
 just to one another
 there stones swim
 and save drowning fish
 there young and old
 understand one another

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