These are original translations of poetry by the German writer/poet Joachim Ringelnatz. Because of Ringelnatz frequent use of rhyme as well as his often times non-sensical idioms and neologisms, few of his poems have been translated into English.
W.H. Auden, “What mad Nijinsky wrote / About Diaghilev / Is true of the normal heart; For [it]
Craves what it cannot have, / Not universal love / But to be loved alone.”
I already sleep with our eulogized love placed on my bedside
I used to imagine new memories and smile
I smile now half
Wade the rhythm of someone’s heartbeat
Quick you lose it, along with parts of yourself you did not know was theirs
Here is what is left of my lungs
Here is what I think your hands must have felt like in mine
Here is where you leave my body long before you have said goodbye
I wanted to write a poem about me today
So, I will soon
Maybe my writing so many past tense poems of you
is my last attempt at trying to bury you into a grave you are not yet ready for.
Still you treat me
as though heartbreak never entered this equation
Still you say things that you meant once
And still is that not a form of self-resurrection?
The voices of everyone except for yours
will keep me company here now
to hear is to heal
is to be here
I put down the shards of angered utterances
(there is so much more out there anyway to be angry about)
I am instead old man yelling at the t.v. screen
We embrace each other (for just a moment longer) after one of our dances
I do not take
any of it for granted
Do not wait for me.
I pause a little longer, for instance
I hear it—
Can you hear the fear?
Anger dissipates itself yet again into the air
Nijinksy was mad but not right
It is not to be loved, or loved alone,
It is simply the act of being seen
I do not remember how long it’s been since I last felt my hands
It is the t.v. screen, black
It is another sadness I should tend to
We are climbing back into time,
(because I said so)
hugging with hands, unclean
remembering to dance
Pausing, for even a mere instance
I am to wait only on myself.
When I was little we talked about anything but stars, for
after all God was not trapped between the celestial, but
among us, around us, infinitely near and infinitely far.
i was sitting in a class about war and i was the only woman,
which is weird, because the world makes warzones out of women every day.
isn’t this how it’s always been?
we’re born in rainstorms of dish soap, told from the very beginning that
we need to be cleaner,
Saint Kevin kneeling in his hut with his arms outstretched,
guilty guilty guilty
waiting for the blackbird to leave
so we can get up off our knees.
did you know that my mother,
scarred from lye and steel sponge, codeine and injury,
asked my father to marry her and then went to the desert,
stood in front of Elvis in that Vegas chapel with the man she loves
and exchanged vows.
did they exchange vows? i don’t know.
but i do know -- from the polaroids --
that she had fought her entire life to feel this kind of happiness,
this kind of intensity, this kind of truth,
and, yes, this kind of fear.
like men in battle.
like women, in battle.
the greatest sorrow amongst biologists is
that most lineages lead to extinction.
I am thinking of this while tender-footing around
the greenhouse, cataloging each and every
variation of splendor. I wonder if leaves and stems
feel the burden of inheritance, the weight of
in each sudden, delirious fruiting. Do they feel the shoulders
of their mother’s mother stiff against the weight of
disappearance, do they too think about the blood &
the mass graves associated with living? I want to
believe that they do understand this, that I am not
alone in seeing one thousand shadows within my
each darkness lush with ancestral sacrifice. I think about the
genes I did not get, all the people I will never be mistaken for.
I wonder about the extinctions woven between my widows peak
and softly freckled skin mostly when I am laying in the blue
boy-smelling room Ethan kisses me in. This room
where he speaks no Yiddish and I speak no Spanish,
not even softy to the backs of his sleeping
I kiss Ethan’s elbow and recite in my head
our biological propensity to disappear
while he tells me about outer space and the moon landing
and his big dream of being an astronaut.
Ethan misunderstands what I mean when I
say that it is our birthright to vanish
and half-jokingly asks me to repopulate Mars with him.
why not? the earth is not much
than a house built with forgotten
we speakers of deceased tongues
we lovers of those who are just shadow
let us go to heaven and make our own
Clearing my dishes
I hear the sound
Of a wasp
Falling into my lemonade
The sugar drew her in
Like Icarus to the sun
Now she writhes on her back
In spasms of useless self-preservation
If she were a ladybug
I would dip my finger into the glass
And save her without question
But she is a wasp
And touching her is danger for me
Why risk the soft flesh of my finger
For her little life?
I get up from the table
And look out the window
Until the buzzing stops
And I can fling her body in the sink
Later that day, on the way to the mailbox
I feel a sharp prick
And reach down to pluck a dead wasp from my ankle
Where it had stung me
A proud red circle appearing in the sunlight
Sometimes you think your brain is a boombox
Which, to translate, means “It’s loud in here,”
And it’s a knockout kind of loud;
The kind that makes the head numb,
Puts distortion fuzz on the edges of familiar things until they’re all made grey
Colors bleed out and seep into the ground out of sight.
Try as you might you can’t adjust the volume
Or change the station;
All you can do is sit there and buzz;
Semitones in your bones.
On days like these you take little white circles to keep the volume down;
ESCITALOPRAM, the bottle says,
Otherwise known as LEXAPRO,
Otherwise known as A WAY TO PUT THE BLUSH BACK ON THE ROSE
THAT HAS LONG SINCE LOST ITS COLOR.
These circles are CDs; all you have is a tape deck.
And sometimes you imagine her,
(she, who does not exist,
But in your faintest dreams might one day lay by your side);
She is not the CD that doesn’t fit in your slots but an old tape,
Eight tracks ranging from anomie to teen sex anxieties,
Sad boy love songs in a plastic case.
HER, it will say on the label,
Otherwise known as YOUR BILDUNGSROMAN,
Otherwise known as THE BLUSH ON THE ROSE,
COME BACK AGAIN,
MADE BRIGHT, FOR ONCE.
When she is turned up loud you wouldn’t mind it one bit,
That’d be the song that you listen to on repeat
Wind it back, and play again
Until the shiny copper-brown tape leaks free from the plastic;
Exposed to the air, it will never make sound again.
Sometimes you imagine her.
But for now you are left with CDs that won’t play,
That, and too much white noise.