from Variation auf kein Thema
translated by Keston Sutherland
Again before the telephone, in the exhibit
case beneath a verge of glass, the door
was hardly shut, stiffened, an object
for pedestrians at the streetside
you stare at the touchtone panel, numbers
like the stellar enchanted forest
there at the night sky / decimal mandala
which with its reachable sum lures,
with sudden nearness, whispers, betrayal,
love even — everything coded
as long since planned ahead a life
on call and hardly dialed
a voice explodes in your head.
Go little, all of three years old
looping a sampled hate
you will not grow
to oil the wooden cog maquette
or tinpot stator.
MAFF made you a wick out of lamb
the soft, yellow fat —
got on it clumsily,
something in the valley laughs
at your bursting, the forest can’t
go with the wind, change, carrying torment
beyond reach of pollen,
boredom and the
fuck-you colossus larks.
It’s always the same place, there I hear you
pour out bitter vengeance into space;
it sucks it up soon enough, there was no rain
on your parade, sit calmly now, they like you.
We live in some noise, and some down their hearts
in one gulp and crash over a waterfall of strings
to the very bottom, where they break ceaselessly
upon their heads. And yet through all of it
a man is walking with a cane,
he does not look up or smile. He moves
neither slow nor fast, and things wheel around him.
I have been here before, but now the room is troubled.
Snaps of censure twist at necks, much is misunderstood
from inside certain palaces in need of care, maintain
the retreat, anything is always ready for nothing.
This man would disappear if he could; for now,
he stands companionably slung across the gate,
chatting to a maiden. He must be a little rakish.
When they part he has nothing much to do,
stands there a little longer, and only then moves on.
From the damp chamber of stratagems and ruses
come the orders, a master chooses a favourite defence.
From my opulent library of screams I give you this one,
where the mouth works determinedly to extract the flavour,
and this drink is satisfaction in a glass, it is.
This one hunches up, this one is all theatrical malice
to deliver brutal clues, he won’t survive the first reel.
The look is stunning, equal parts love and low cunning,
the beats are bossa nova, and the bar will serve ’til late.
How they mill about, drop a glass here and there!
On a passing shirt is ‘SHUN THE WORLD YOU WERE
BORN TO’ from a thumbs-up alien, coldest one on the floor.
The fortifications proceed apace; they work quickly
and without mortar, they hate the foreman when he’s gone.
One holds up a brick to the light, and squinting,
marks his name on one side. It goes in like the rest.
At the mouth, threshold of that sound, hear denial
now simultaneous, it ripples across the features
as the aftermath. All over slumped back against
the fire-resistant Draylon, it appears to be
consuming you. Someone whispers,
‘only when I lean forward am I alive’.
From the neck ring extends two feet of chain,
this one rocks to the limit, a second heartbeat.
Close to the rim of discernable sound slam
doors open and closed, it is not a rhythm yet.
So a new stance for each remark; so far there’s
back left jovial, twist and back right concerned.
Exaggeration is one of the main ones, we are still
In that world of the wise, this one begs for sense.
Smoke, goddamn you, between your third and little fingers.
A muscle twitched in her temple, almost quick enough
to miss, out of his heart poured gallons of crude.
This one read the battle plans one last time,
behind the curtain she laced their pillows with drops
of jasmine, counting each one as it fell.