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I was washing at night in the courtyard, Harsh stars shone in the sky. Starlight, like salt on an axe-head – The rain-butt was brim-full and frozen.
The gates are locked, And the earth in all conscience is bleak. There’s scarcely anything more basic and pure Than truth’s clean canvas.
A star melts, like salt, in the barrel And the freezing water is blacker, Death cleaner, misfortune saltier, And the earth more truthful, more awful.
(126) 1921
To some, winter is arrack and a blue-eyed punch, To some, a fragrant wine with cinnamon, Some get their salty orders from the brutal stars To carry back to smoke-filled huts.
A little still-warm chicken dung, Sheep’s muddle-headed warmth: For life, I would give everything – For so-much-needed care, for a match to warm me.
Look: in my hand there’s only an earthenware bowl; A chirping of stars is tickling my thin ear; Through this pitiful down I have to admire The yellowness of grass and the warmth of the soil.
Quietly to be carding wool and tedding straw; To starve like an apple-tree in its winter binding; Senselessly drawn by tenderness for everything alien; Fumbling through emptiness, patiently waiting.
Let the conspirators, like sheep, speed over the snow. Let the brittle snow-crust crack. Winter – to some – is a lodging of wormwood and acrid smoke, To some the stern salt of ceremonial wounds.
Oh to raise a lantern on a long stick, Under the salt of stars to follow a dog, And, rooster in pot, enter a fortune-teller’s yard. But white, white snow scalds my eyes till they smart.
(127) 1922
Rosy foam of fatigue on his sensual lips, The bull furiously paws at the green breakers; A ladies’ man, no oarsman, he snorts, His spine unused to its laborious burden.
An occasional dolphin leaps in an arc, A sea-urchin comes into view. Hold in your arms, Tender Europa, all his worldly possessions: Where could a bull find a more desirable yoke?
Bitterly she heeds the mighty splashing: The corpulent and fertile sea is seething. Aghast at the water’s oily brilliance, She would like to slide down those hirsute cliffs.
Ah, she would prefer the company of sheep, The creak of rowlocks or the lap of a spacious deck, And fish flickering beyond a lofty poop. – But the oarless oarsman swims with her further and further!
(128) 1922
As the leaven swells, So the housewife’s thrifty soul Is possessed by the heat of the loaves,
As if Sophias of bread Raise cupolas of rounded ardour From a table of cherubim
And to coax a miraculous surplus With force or caresses, the kingly herd-boy – Time – seizes the bread, the word.
Even the stale stepson of the centuries Finds his place – as the cooling makeweight For loaves already lifted from the oven.
(130) 1922
I climbed into the tousled hayloft, Breathed the hay-dust of the mouldering stars, The dishevelment of space,
And on the ladder pondered: why Wake up a swarm of sounds, the miracle of Aeolian order, Athwart this everlasting squabble?
Once more I want to strike a match, To shove the night with my shoulder – To wake it up.
The huge and shaggy load sticks out above the universe, The hayloft’s ancient chaos Begins to tickle as the darkness swells.
Mowers bring back Goldfinches fallen from their nests. I shall wring loose from these burning lines,
Get back to the order of sound where I belong, To the blood’s grass-like and ringing connection, Nerving myself for the dream beyond reason.
(from 131 and 132) 1922

My time

My time, my brute, who will be able To look you in the eyes And glue together with his blood The backbones of two centuries?
Blood, the builder, gushes From the earth’s throat. Only parasites tremble On the edge of the future…
To wrench our age out of prison A flute is needed To connect the sections Of disarticulated days…
And buds shall swell again, Shoots splash out greenly. But your backbone is broken, My beautiful, pitiful century.
With an idiot’s harsh and feeble grin You look behind: A beast, once supple, Ponders its paw-marks in the sand.
(from 135) 1923

Whoever finds a horseshoe

We look at a forest and say: Here is a forest for ships and masts, Red pines, Free to their tops of their shaggy burden, To creak in the storm In the furious forestless air; The plumbline fastened to the dancing deck Will hold out under the wind’s salt heel. And the sea-wanderer, In his unbridled thirst for space, Dragging through damp ruts a geometer’s needle, Collates the rough surface of the seas With the attraction of the earth’s lap.
But breathing the smell Of resinous tears oozing through planks, Admiring the boards of bulkheads riveted Not by the peaceful Bethlehem carpenter but by that other – Father of journeys, friend of seafarers – We say: These too stood on the earth, Awkward as a donkey’s backbone, Their crests forgetful of their roots, On a celebrated mountain ridge; And howled under the sweet cloud-burst, Fruitlessly offering the sky their precious freight For a pinch of salt.