Rolf Dieter Brinkmann


– Translated from German by Mark Terrill

for example cows beneath the moon,
peaceful souls, ruminating,
Buddha-guts in the high grass,
hidden between small trees and

clumps of brush in the constant
greenness, a practical black-and-white-
spotted metaphysics, tormented by
summer flies which stick to their

saliva. The space hangs inside
their eyes like a gong, which
beckons to the slaughterhouse. Or a
blue rain barrel in the south, where

the sky is an endless continuation
of blue, hallucinated spaces
during the day, but real. The tricks
of the Rolling Stones are over.

I listen to Leonard Cohen singing,
there is a war between the men
and the women, why don’t you come
on back to the war, it’s just be-

ginning. Various grasses grow
along the edges, enchanted
green. The grass is moved, moves
itself, and all the years came, like

always, one after the other: good-
bye, fast cloud, goodbye
blue sky in the window frames, good-
bye, dried grass,

naked in the first twilight,
goodbye. A wet barbed
wire fence stands there, crooked posts,
goodbye, suburbs, as though

no one lives there, fragments of
biographies and newspapers, the
senseless waving. Some lines are
like the waving of children from a

train window while passing through
strange cities in the afternoon, passing
the rows of low-rent apartments with the
single faces at the windows:

if all the confessions in the world
that were ever given and written down
in the courts of the world
were put together and

dragged by one after the other, what
an endless misery it would be
to be in the world. Someone
calls, dials any old

number, and I hear only
their breath, and there again is
the distance, the soft
crackling noise of the

confusion in another
place, and otherwise nothing there
in the afternoon. And in the morning, when
you get up and stare at the hotel

breakfast and you don’t understand
why you’re in this hotel room,
where you actually are, and you think
about what you can do at eight in the morning

after an almost sleepless night,
and nothing else comes to mind except
to take the three dirty shirts to
the laundry, having already

showered at seven, do you
embrace the morning light at nine?
Or do you say, goodbye, morning
light? And then you hear the rush

of a flushing toilet while you
walk along a long hallway and what
do you feel then? That everything is
in order? At ten someone calls and

talks about death, and you make a
joke about the film projectionist with cancer
who’s been with the company for 25
years, and whoever else is in the room

laughs as well. Who goes through the rooms,
unfamiliar, and remembers the lines
from the song: Green leaves, how are
you alone? What sort of damned lonely

business letters are being written.
The signatures don’t matter at all.
And you sing your song, “Lady, I’m
out of here!” That also belongs to the popular

songs. The peaceful Buddha-souls
lie spotted black-and-white in the
greenness. They chew beneath the same
light the soft green grass again.

2. (for H.S.)

Where the ruble disintegrates into single
kopecks, or the dollar into cents,
or the D-mark into pfennigs like
guilders, where the lira disintegrates

like the franc into centimes and the
English pound into the cheap tobacco of
Spanish coins, where the ostmark
breaks into eye-wrinkles and a

tractor stands in the candlelight, where the
Swedish öre disintegrates into insurance
like world empires, where the sturgeon
dies in the rivers and the herring

in the North Sea, where the distances
between the cities grow like the
disintegration among the single cities,
where the yen is changed into the cruzeiro,

where too much is invested in soap,
where the Bulgarian tin cans
are converted into Argentinean bank
drafts, disintegrating like the Finnish

currency, where forests are rafted
down the rivers, where bone meal
becomes plastic, where sums are
copied, where the geese become zlotys

and are frozen in black aspic,
where the dinar drives the camel, the
corn rots in the fields, decaying
like teeth which will be exchanged, where the

peso dies miserably, the black underwear
rises, disintegrating like revenue stamps into
whichever sort of coins the faces may disintegrate,
into whatever bodily needs, piss, dirt paths, rest

rooms and bed sheets, where the army is
financing the study of poetry, where the
technical institutes explain the world,
the twitching heart of a turtle

hanging from a thread for all to see,
where the licenses set the limits, decomposing
into animal-pictures, where signatures are
needed, testaments, accounts, where the bank

holidays are there for a sigh of relief, to hang
out the flags and decorate the day,
where the carbide stank, where the bottles burst,
where the rubble lay strewn and the tattoos,

the companies proliferate like the mass media,
the chunks of stone and rubble have been
cleared aside, the pain and the sorrow
sold off, decomposed into monthly wages,

where there is still something to do, the specter
of unemployment drives them together,
the ghosts of the owners, the ghosts
of the employees, where all of them are busy

administering this world, or what they consider
to be this world, traps, driven together
in the offices, but the offices disintegrate,
where the rooms have many doors and glass

walls, the elevator shafts disintegrate, the
arcades disintegrate, smashed store
windows, mold spores, wild
vegetation, in between store-window

mannequins, rats scurrying through
long ruined arcades, rats in the
pale empty corridors of the skyscrapers,
where the last cripples are still being

driven together, everyone driven together
to administrate this world, these walls,
cyclone fences, entrances, the class-
rooms like ruined swimming pools,

like signatures which disintegrate, where
nights the children scream in the
apartment towers, dismally bound
to the silence, where the children throw up

their baby food again, where the bodies
lie next to each other in the darkness and
masturbate in order to go to sleep,
finally exhausted and empty, decomposing

like the face of a television announcer
in the half-insane dream, who makes new
announcements in different voices like on
scratched records, disintegrating

like shillings, where the twisted
pain becomes jokes in a dialect,
applauded by the ranks, where the ranks
finally disintegrate, where a radio announcer

pulls her tampon out of the hairy hole
between her legs on the toilet in the office
of the National Public Radio during a
pause in which poems are read, where the

Sundays are endless, decayed like sick
lungs, where it is said, that is not
your face, that is not your face,
where the coins disintegrate into faces, old

faces, dead faces, grieved and
hideous on the banknotes which disintegrate,
where we go, simple daylight sparkles
in the rain puddles, sparkles in the

dripping trees, pleasure, the astonishment
of the eyes, when you laughed as you
saw your trailer, the beautiful laughter
of a total lack of understanding as you opened

the car door, where the checks corroded
the surroundings, paper disintegrated into nickel,
decayed like a currency made from black
dream-slag, which crumbles at the

next touch, where a woman has no
other chance than forward through the
bushes, like Bolivar disintegrating into
centimos, where maybe you’re in a dream,

it’s time that we tell each other more
stories, where one doesn’t stand with their back
to the wall, but rather in an open door, in
the daylight, which doesn’t disintegrate like the

wavy plateau with the lethargic chicken hawks
circling above, quiet black movements, clear
in the air, where the sky no longer
fits in the picture and together with the clouds

passes by in the window. Who’s calling through
the frozen forests? Who’s wandering through
the snowed-in halls? Who’s freezing
and huddled together in the endless

transfer station, where the rupees disintegrate,
changed into dirhams, faces upon them,
theories of probability, dog bones,
death a white apparition in a

white invisible tent, Jeep tracks with
dust clouds trailing behind,
death is a dried-up camel
skeleton by the wayside, death is a

dead skunk on the highway, death
is a dead cat on an empty
parking lot, death is the long
rows of suits on the chromed

rack in the next men’s department,
death is a chopped down
tree, where the shadow-shoes lie, worn
out, where the houses have no

walls anymore, where the electric lights
wander about in the rooms, nuclear decay,
multiplication, optical lenses, behind the
frost patterns on the window the book is shut

and a face cries, a brain is
opened, the exhilaration of a dark, clear
winter night is illuminated by constellations
and does not fall, where death is a dried-

up river bed, white gravel
and the plateaus fly by, you see that,
we saw them spread out, the plateaus,
flying by white in the headlights,

I went back into the hastily constructed
apartment, the dreams continuing, the plateau
white, I stared into the aluminum pot,
at the rest of the broccoli under the light,

the plateau passing by, white, with the
slight indication that we make, where a
dirty, rickety claw is a clean
hand stroking a mahogany

table, having plundered the many
daydreams, now it lies rickety and
crooked on the clean surface, where the
Luxembourgean francs become Malian

dollars, which disintegrate into Cuban pesos,
who is it who shits out money and lets a forest
die so that he can appear in the comics,
massaged on the beach, he with the mantraps

and self-inflicted gunshots, observed by helicopters,
a marked man, who is it who drags their suitcase
through the bus station, who is it who drops a coin
into the TV automat, who is it who skims the

psychoanalytical journals in order
to solve a case, who is it who interprets
the world, who is it who interprets the next construction-
site fence, who is it who interprets the apartment,

shadows of people burned into the
asphalt, stones with human shadows
on exhibit, aerial photographs of the
landscape allowed for postcard greetings

by the Minister of War, he who allows, believes
he has the rights for fencing in,
where the piastres are scrap, poetry is
not a waiting room where one stays overnight, tired,

behind a newspaper opened to the
swarming masses of war, every word is
war, scrap-words like death, driven
together in herds, without differences,

should I have slept with your wife,
should I have had more magazines,
should I have used the dish-
washer, should I have followed the movie

posters, filigree-gray hypothetical questions,
tendrils, cement ornamentation, where the dreams
die off like plateaus, a canister on the
shark, the daily view out the

window into this side street, which you
don’t know, where the dollar disintegrates
into kopecks and the ruble into cents, where
pesetas are wrung from the bones,

but the pleasure is greater than the
sorrow, the drachma is smaller than the
lust, reduced to a hundred lepta, which
disappear at the next opportunity,

where the Turkish pounds are extracted from
the tendons, decayed, decayed in the buildings
of the 19th & 20th centuries in West Germany,
extensions, bills, obligations, everything

the same, pawned off, worn out, trashed,
pawned off again on television, from the
serial, from the jukebox. Gentle face,
in the middle of the crowd you’ve seen

the twitching body, suddenly the
concert was over, did you stammer, did
you cry, where the corridors are cement,
where the speaker boxes boomed, where the faces

broke into dream-wrinkles, where the city maps
have white spots, where the color white in no way
means death, where the dog fur fails to warm,
where the ways end, Ivory Coast is a

fantastic name, tattoos,
scars, moving in, moving out, many thanks.

3. (History)

Last night I was thinking about the love
story of Adolf Hitler.
I saw the permanent waves in the hair
of Eva Braun. How many German women

today look like the smile of
Eva Braun. The photos reproduce themselves.
I was not, I know, born in a
photograph. Snow fell in April,

as I was born, shrouded in the
ornamental cloth of the baptism ritual.
The war, I don’t understand what that
is, which language is where? Eva Braun

smiled at Adolf Hitler, that was in
Berlin. What did Adolf Hitler first say
to Eva Braun? Which distances
exist between the permanent waves on the

photo and the old fashioned curling iron
for permanent waves which I saw later
on a windowsill? As I slept in the Academy
of Art in Berlin, I thought about

this curling iron for permanent waves.
The photo was a memory which I looked
at. Twenty years later I looked
at a fat face in the daily

paper, which drank ersatz coffee in a Berlin
hotel from a hotel coffee cup, the title was
Professor, the title was not to be identi-
fied. Eva Braun, was your neck shaved?

Eva Braun, what did you think about the Sarotti
chocolates? Adolf Hitler, as you went through
Munich with your Pelikan watercolors, what did you
see? The Sütterlin script ruined the

handwriting. From the handwriting I was supposed
to learn. Adolf Hitler skimmed over the city
maps. Eva Braun looked in the crystal
mirror at her cunt. Which size

did your thighs have, Eva Braun? I know girls
who look exactly like the Eva Braun who looks
like Eva Braun in the photo. I grew
up, considered my pubic hairs, considered

nipples, considered the reeds, years
later I considered the picture of Eva Braun.
In the same month a breast of the
wife of the American president would be

cut off, in another historical
photo old men polished their assholes
on brocade-lined armchairs after
the conference, the southern afternoon is full of

junk, dust, crumbling constructions. What was
with the intestinal worms which Adolf Hitler’s German
shepherd had? What was with Eva Braun? A
storybook story which one suppressed

like years later the interpretations, ended.
Half of Austria arrived in a train,
kissed Eva Braun’s hand, looked at her tits,
sealed with permanent waves. Adolf Hitler

passed out postcards. I saw my
mother in a photo in a long row
sitting and laughing, I saw my father
in a photo going along a tree-lined avenue,

naive in uniform like an avenue tree,
what were they playing as they were
photographed? I saw the creases in the pants
of Adolf Hitler in a photo, I saw, four years

old, a dark train station passing
by in 1944, I saw an enameled sign
with blue and yellow wool and knitting needles
on the red brick wall of a train station,

Eva Braun, did Adolf Hitler tenderly stroke
your pussy with his tongue? Adolf
Hitler, did Eva tenderly suck your
cock? Or was that taboo thanks to

the state and politics? Come stains on the winter
coat, a couple of generals in the toilet,
they drew battle plans on the shitty
wall, named names, heights, deployments,

Eva Braun, what did you feel when you
got the capsule? Did you simply think
you’d had your chance? Did you think,
now I’ve had it? And the teeth of the German shepherd

fell out of his jaw after the strong injection.
The orgasm of death is cheaper than the
orgasm of life, although it’s questionable whether
the orgasm of death isn’t simply pent up

life that explodes. Why isn’t life
in the multitudes every day?
Why permanent waves, Eva Braun?
Why are you smiling, Eva Braun? Why

do you take cough syrup, Eva Braun? Didn’t Adolf
Hitler know that the Austrian
psychoanalysis, lying in the sentences, lies? I
was never at the river Inn, also

have no desire to look at the water,
also have no desire to look at the water in Cologne,
dead water, full of dead fish and
plants, dead water, which they fought over, borders,

coals, fires for the industry, furnaces, embers
in the night, dancing figures before the open
fires of the industrial complexes, no holy saint swims
in these dead waters, no holy saint spits

out the apartment window, the crude passing through
is better than taking pills, the patents,
Eva Braun, how was it for you under the shower,
German charcoal, flamingo flowers, Spanish irises

and pails? Adolf Hitler in a nightshirt,
in the cement, under the earth’s surface,
sparkle of nerves, dancing over the
files, he dreamed madly in the cement bunker,

supposedly never hit anyone
personally, he had others enough to do
his hitting, there are always others who
sign, hit, hang, indeed there are

always others, employees, secretaries,
office boys, insanity, Eva Braun, you straw puppet,
smoke, cyanide, trace elements, signatures,
which suddenly become single living

persons, things, the shabby things, they’re
standing in the room. Did Adolf Hitler stand before you
in the room with a stiff cock, Eva Braun? Who washed
your bra, Eva Braun? Did you think about

Persil laundry soap? World history in the form of
industrial comics, Eva Braun, a lace dress in the
large hall, among the human voices, shoulders
lifted high, did you see them? What’s with

the dyed hair? What’s with that old high
German? What’s with the fossilized
love stories? Word-ghosts, dirty bastards
of history, stumbling through the rhymes,

between the film-shadows of Berlin, shadow
gestures, projection-screen-shadows, shadow-screams,
collapsing shadows, later accompanied
by a soundtrack, synchronised

lip movements, Eva Braun, in which
magazines were you reading? I have to remember:
my mother loved airplanes and ghosts,
which reappeared, phantoms, she dreamed of them,

even before she cooked for the men at the
airfield, in her odd French, my
father borrowed a car in his school-English,
the top rolled back, they

stopped in the countryside, they fucked
at the edge of a warm yellow wheat field in July.
My mother loved cheap paperbacks, she looked
to see if the seam in her stockings was straight, she went

across the meadow in a silky shimmering dress.
The father-in-law left his library to the
state of Israel for a sentimental reason,
and what happened before, that these forms

developed, more sentimental than the memory
of house-corners and street names? More sentimental
than permanent waves in a photo? I have to
remember the pale suburban settlement, I

have to think about the truck that
suddenly stopped in front of the house, packed with
people and their belongings, billets to make
the foreignness even foreigner, checked off

the lists, bedpans, briefcases, pomaded and
parted, they had nothing, owned the in-
sanity of never-owned imaginary goods, if they
spoke, from where they came, the biographies ruined

by dead Austria, old myths, fallow fields,
the opposite is not the industry, the oppo-
site disappears in the old photos, in which
history disintegrated all around, Eva Braun, opaque

window glass, portals, coma in a Swedish
hotel room, shots in the leg above the stocking
garter. Now the computers are tossing bones
in the air, Stanley Kubrick, the film trick

is revealed, despite four-channel-stereo in
the red-plush cinemas of Soho, where I am one
rainy evening, walking through London alone, quiet,
collected, in the light gray, windy

February evening, decaying London, elegiac
West End streets, elegiac advertisements, elegiac
theater buildings and striptease clubs, elegiac
filthy book stores under aged,

murky dust, rusted leaky water pipes along
the house fronts, a senselessly ringing alarm
on a house wall, dismally yellowed paint,
entrances with the names of bodily flesh,

which for a few moments can be bought,
contact between a lonely cock and
a cold cunt before the weak gas heater of
the rented room, miserable and lost in the

maze of numbers, bleak and frozen in the money.
Eva Braun, who wrote you postcards?
Eva Braun, have you ever stood freezing in
Piccadilly? Eva Braun, what did you say in the moment

when that photo was taken? After the movie I crawl
shivering under the thin blanket of a cheap
hotel in Bayswater, Odeon station, the monster
quarter of London, crumbling courtyards, buried

bodies, the gas-fired fireplace doesn’t heat, the
wallpaper is stained, I read a few more
poems by Frank O’Hara and W.C. Williams, I
drink the rest of some cold coffee out of

the paper cup that stands on the marble mantle
over the fireplace, I’m alone in these American
poems and see myself in them in the middle of this
London night, yellow fog lights along the

streets, Victorian monster-columns and portals
the whole street long, windows patched with cardboard,
curtain-scraps, and suddenly, in the silence, completely
crazy, I remember the call sign

of the BBC radio one morning during the war. I
remember the after-the-war-chocolate of
the English soldiers, blue plums on a
cart, which was being pushed through a courtyard,

Strauss waltzes, a dark movie theater and war.
A bone tossed in the air, a killer’s
tool on the white screen of the memory,
a flickering shadow, hidden behind ornamental flowers,

together with the shadow-noises from the stereo speakers
is nothing but a shadow in the eerie, insane
ballroom of Death, which is the air, Death blows
bubbles in the air, it’s much better to relax

peacefully with a liverwurst sandwich during
the lunch break, better to eat the plums out
of the icebox without saying you’re sorry,
better to drink cold coffee from a paper cup

in a hotel room at night, better than
moving pictures, aerial photographs, Eva Braun, I’m
thinking here in this Cologne night, stuffy and dismal,
while I look at a photo, which tells of the love

story, kitschy and hand-colored,
Eva Braun, little monster among
the decor, smiling stupid and sad
in the photo, and before the photo was taken,

really. The eyebrows are
touched up, your mouth is open, lipstick
on the lips, are the stocking seams straight? Are you
wearing a flowered dress? Has someone

messed up your hair? What’s with the accent? Did
someone give you a horny look, your slightly fat baby
face? Have you forgotten your cunt? Did your
cunt dry up out of fear as the war began?

Berlin sky, as I flew in with a Pan Am plane,
I first saw a cemetery between
the houses, the gentlemen laid their
newspapers on the empty seats,

the taxi driver swore about the passers-by as
the lights went on. In the subway hall
someone held their bloody, dripping face between
their hands and turned toward the tiled wall

as the automatic doors slammed
shut. Did you mend your stockings with
Güterman’s silk thread? How did you look in
a swimsuit? Did you shave your armpits?

Shaved armpits always look like soap
and deodorant, stubbly and slick.
Fantasy has taken over the industry
with its employees.

Did you eat a liverwurst
sandwich? Did the liverwurst sandwich taste good?
Did Adolf Hitler have sweaty feet? Did he kiss your hand?
Did he talk in his sleep? What did you take

against the headaches? What did you think
as you were chauffeured along the Kurfürstendamm?
In the fading shadows of 5 in the morning
I sit there between the folded up,

locked up patio chairs and tables, smoke
kif in the shadow of the Café Kranzler awning and walk
through the tear gas clouds and shards of glass
from the shattered storefront windows, the whores

having hastily retreated as the street battle began
a few hours ago, then I take the first subway
train to the Wannsee, where a couple of swans are rocking
between the garbage along the shore, a lifeless pier,

a weak dawn, light gray. What kind of
fur coat did you wear? What kind of toothpaste
did you use? I tremble in the first dawn
in Berlin, take the socks from the radiator,

let down the shades. It’s a pity
that you didn’t invent love, Eva Braun.
I write this rock ‘n’ roll song about your
terrible insanity, Eva Braun. Would you have

liked this song? Would you have sweated as you danced?
What did you talk about as you were alone in the cement
bunker? Why the color brown? What did the tongue demand?
No one loved Adolf Hitler, and that was why he

had to win the war? Did you see the bodies?
Did you see the hand-to-hand combat? Did you see the
flame-throwers? Did you see the burned faces?
Did you see the gas-cripples? Did you

see the killer-virus spores? Did you see the
flower-shadows? Did you
look out the window? Did you turn off
the nightstand lamp? The permanent waves of

order on your head, your fat, bare
shoulder, your underwear from the department store,
your pierced ear lobe for the jewel, your
handkerchief with the mucous, the camellia

between the legs, your ass-shapes in the
garter belt, your nipples, will they remain a
secret? In the middle of the historical showplaces
of the war, the war is a showplace, who even

looks? Is a love story necessary that needs
so many questions? Now you’ve disappeared in the
historical photo. Now the disguises are going
around. Now the story is broken down and over.

4. (D-Train)

: letting the newspaper
flutter out the rolled down window,
a child’s hand, with the

shreds of paper against it,

the misery (foreign countries), which invests in this
country, sits on every
furtively glanced-at

street corner, sad, tired faces,
without expression, bags under the eyes, lines around
the tight-lipped mouth,

a young woman cries from exhaustion
in a two-and-a-half room apartment, in the
unfolded architecture of geometry,
it’s night and the heating pipes are ticking,

Quote: “The most dangerous animal that exists is
the architect. He has destroyed more than the war.”

Hair loss following birth, fear
on the street, in the middle of the day, if one stands
still, surrounded by the multitudes, the absent

glances, waking up, coughing & spitting

in the sink, postponed material circumstances,
the delicate bodies pushed up against the walls by
the cars, the same rows of suburban streets

all the way into the inner city,

single, running bodies between the

convoys of the auto industry, blurred figures

behind the dirt-flecked security glass windows, smaller
than their own bodies in the industrial shells,

the newspaper rips in the headwind,

shreds of paper drift over the narrow gardens
along the tracks, kites made of stinky
printer’s ink, collages of the
daily gradual madness,

frozen swirls of words: brand names,

reptile brains, hate, slander, semantics, the

big families continue on. In the streets
the skinny girls’ bodies, bones with a little
skin over them, in colorful rags from the second-hand store,

“when the music’s over” between the rain-

faded old advertisements,                                      (neon-light
extinguished curiosity to live,                                calligraphy)

extinguished poetry.               The dawns

are damp and impassable, masses of bent-over
figures, they disappear in the offices, they go
into the stores, they have to go to schools, kindergartens,

their ways of life distinctive between

rows of products and shelves, in the pestilent-light-flicker
of the TV at night the faces of the politicians appear
and discuss, in the pestilent-light-flicker

of the TV the strange faces appear
on the wall of the room: do you remember

“until the end” the dark house entrances,
in which we stood together,

do you remember your own kisses in the
stairwell, do you remember kisses

at all? (Or what

you felt?) Submerged in the glowing grass
along the paths, seen from the open train window,
we let the newspaper shreds fly.

Yellow afternoon light reflects in the windows
which we pass by, September-yellow

and what kind of country is this,

what kind of thoughts are

thought to the finish here, finally to the end,

the end                            “the aristocracy

of feelings,” hahahaha, that’s

not to my taste,

if anyone should have anything to do with that at all,
IBM-typewriter-feelings and kisses,

I stretch out my feet,                                          how does that
one over the other, in this                                           fit together?
compartment, the white Converse All

Star basketball shoes, 12 dollars,
on the red plastic seat, and once again the
piece of newspaper torn for the child at the open

train window: how the words fly (masks),

the fragments, it’s one of those gentle afternoons that
we rarely have, light over the pale, monotone
cities, soft afternoon light

on the crumbling facades of the suburbs

and tract homes, soft September-afternoon-light

on the faces in the open windows
which we pass by,
gentle human-faces
in September,

the hate of the newspapers rips, flutters as
paper in the hand, that cheerful
sound in the moving

D-Train: it brings us from the northwest
regions of West Germany through the
zones of industry and profit,

dead, abandoned winding-towers, black
wheels in the air,
slag heaps,
dead roads, black, sooty
steam locomotives on a dead

track, rusted railway lines

& dust-coated Scotch broom along the embankment, do you
really remember your own kisses?

And when the West                 (“Oh to be out of here,
German industry              here where everything went
collapses?                                as wished except for the new”)

“Here in this land I live!”: do you really
live?                (“To be far away
and in a foreign
No, not this                        country.” E.P.)

Until now this was a foreign country, wherever you

Memory: I hear the shaky
The chestnut                            voice of the poet on a record
tree in the                                 in an apartment, evening,
lightless                                    sinister hallways
narrow courtyard,                   and without voices, maybe 60 names
on the nameplate in the entryway
still-standing                            by the glass door, locked early,
elevators,                                 the stairwell light out, a red
glowing light switch at the end of the hall,
the calendar                            and then in the midst of the lifelessness
picture                                       television film sounds behind a door
on a                                           as I walk along there / the voice of the
office wall,                                poet stuttering in on a
Sunday morning, and
sun                                            now, after the hallways, in this
blinds,                                       West German apartment years later
suddenly again)

Prone Venus and Coca Cola 1974,
verbs in a continuous chronology,
“this Coca Cola of the entire world”

why do you want to speak nicely?

“Must we be idiots and dream in the
partial obscurities of a dubious mood
in order to be poets?“

Burned out in a beautiful September light, the
personal economy: a total disaster,

is the economy a personal feeling? Contradictions
because I speak, contradictions because I think

about it: notes in the newspaper margin, being torn to
shreds. The few friends scattered about the
suburbs, the new friends strewn singly across the country-

side.                                                        Different
different biographies,

deviations,                              “good so.”

Discussion: Where everything is forced to connect…

What did you feel
as you touched the naked body
with your lips, what did you

feel in the middle of the trashed

landscape,                                           word-gods,
under the arranged machines?
Let me
remember, you say,
let me remember, leave me

alone, you say, leave me, gentle face

in a soft September light,
like now: answer softly

answer, “in the midst of the daily
plundering, or?”

Like the faces in the open afternoon-windows
don’t answer. There is a sheet-metal field, dented,

“valse d’autumn” or how such a feeling is called,

not the clarity of looking out a D-Train window,
gentle, gentle rhythm here now,

let me, let me remember, you say.
Small train stations appear and remain behind,

meaningless structures,                                    : remain behind?
meaningless stops                                             : meaningless?

yellow-red fire
in a scrap yard,

gentle, gentle woods, last remains of
forests in which the thin morning fog
still hangs, traces of dampness, not

bent over, small peaceful ponds, forgotten

at the edge of an estate (:“we’re coming back,”
in that house, we’re coming home, home?) for the eyes
a fugitive rest, from the train window

looking out, the long, slow

even view across this country. There is a
hunkered-down green, fantastic green, which passes by,
and a child’s hand stretched out the train


Why sadness? All: you gentle

faces in the afternoon light                              (no faces
: you gentle faces between                              for the coins)
the billboards, you gentle

faces in the window frames,

you gentle faces in the September light, you
gentle faces of West Germany, tired and sad,
you gentle faces, hungry for cunt, cock,
tits, hungry for an exotic everyday

life, hungry for a kiss, hungry
to feel your own kiss between the walls,

hungry between the advertisements, hungry between
the classified ads, hungry between the pictures,

the advertising sales department closes at nine in the evening
the movie theaters are darkened, to show a

little more life, the box offices close a
quarter-hour after the main feature begins,

the television station broadcasts until shortly after
midnight, hungry in the narrow

gardens, hungry for a gentle embrace,

what do you give your selves? What kind of a
horror is that, when one stops in the middle of the street,
standing among the passers-by,

& each for everyone a passer-by.

“Some Very Popular Songs” by Rolf Dieter Brinkmann and translated by Mark Terrill from An Unchanging Blue: Selected Poems 1962-1975. Translation (c) 2011 by Parlor Press.

ROLF DIETER BRINKMANN was born in Vechta, Germany, in 1940, in the midst of World War II, and died in 1975, in London, England, after being struck by a hit-and-run driver. During his lifetime, Brinkmann published nine poetry collections, four short story collections, several radio plays, and a highly acclaimed novel. He also edited and translated two important German-language anthologies of contemporary American poetry (primarily Beat and New York School, for which Brinkmann had a particular affinity), and translated Frank O’Hara’s Lunch Poems into German, as well as a collection of poems by Ted Berrigan, entitled Guillaume Apollinaire ist Tot. In May, 1975, just a few weeks after his death, Brinkmann’s seminal, parameter-expanding poetry collection Westwärts 1 & 2 appeared, which was posthumously awarded the prestigious Petrarca Prize.

Rolf Dieter Brinkmann’s radical poetics was unique in postwar German literature. His primary influences were Gottfried Benn, European modernism and the French nouveau roman. In the 1960s these influences were merged with William Carlos Williams, Frank O’Hara and Ted Berrigan (the latter two of which Brinkmann translated into German). Brinkmann’s strong affiliation with the New American Poetry provided a reverse-angle, cross-cultural perspective on one of the liveliest epochs in American letters, with a decisively German slant. His permanent confrontation with the postwar German literary establishment (reminding one at times of Jack Spicer and his place in American poetry), and his envelope-pushing experiments with language, syntax and semantics (taken to the extreme in Westwärts 1 & 2), led him further and further away from the literary scene. His confrontational nature and volatile personality were feared at readings, and together with his huge creative output and his early death, earned him a reputation as the “James Dean of poetry,” a true enfant terrible of contemporary letters.

An Unchanging Blue provides a generous sampling of translations (with German originals) taken from ten collections of Rolf Dieter Brinkmann’s poetry published between 1962 and 1975. An extensive introduction by Mark Terrill contextualizes Brinkmann’s place in postwar German literature.

About the Translator:

MARK TERRILL was born in Berkeley, California, shipped out of San Francisco as a merchant seaman to the Far East and beyond, studied and spent time with Paul Bowles in Tangier, Morocco, and has lived in Germany since 1984, where he’s worked as a shipyard welder, road manager for rock bands, cook, postal worker and translator. The author of a dozen books and chapbooks, with other writings and translations appearing in more than 500 magazines, journals and anthologies worldwide, he’s received three Pushcart Prize nominations and was included in the anthology Ends & Beginnings (City Lights Review #6), edited by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Recently he’s performed his work in various venues in Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin and Prague, and was guest-editor for a special German Poetry issue of the Atlanta Review in 2008.