every day

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Every Day
Ingeborg Bachmann

War is no longer declared,
only continued. The monstrous
has become everyday. The hero
stays away from battle. The weak
have gone to the front.
The uniform of the day is patience,
its medal the pitiful star of hope above the heart.

The medal is awarded
when nothing more happens,
when the artillery falls silent,
when the enemy has grown invisible
and the shadow of eternal armament
covers the sky.

It is awarded
for desertion of the flag,
for bravery in the face of friends,
for the betrayal of unworthy secrets
and the disregard
of every command.

Original

Alle Tage

Der Krieg wird nicht mehr erklärt,
sondern fortgesetzt. Das Unerhörte
ist alltäglich geworden. Der Held
bleibt den Kämpfen fern. Der Schwache
ist in die Feuerzonen gerückt.
Die Uniform des Tages ist die Geduld,
die Auszeichnung der armselige Stern
der Hoffnung über dem Herzen.

Er wird verliehen,
wenn nichts mehr geschieht,
wenn das Trommelfeuer verstummt,
wenn der Feind unsichtbar geworden ist
und der Schatten ewiger Rüstung
den Himmel bedeckt.

Er wird verliehen
für die Flucht von den Fahnen,
für die Tapferkeit vor dem Freund,
für den Verrat unwürdiger Geheimnisse
und die Nichtachtung
jeglichen Befehls.

stranger by night

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Stranger By Night
Edward Hirsch

After I lost
my peripheral vision
I started getting sideswiped
by pedestrians cutting
in front of me
almost randomly
like memories
I couldn’t see coming
as I left the building
at twilight
or stepped gingerly
off the curb
or even just crossed
the wet pavement
to the stairs descending
precipitously
into the subway station
and I apologized
to every one
of those strangers
jostling me
in a world that had grown
stranger by night.

Photo by Rikki Chan on Unsplash

 

flying weather

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Flying Weather
Dagmar Nick

The heavens drone
their revenge
Swallows eddying
in the wake of danger
cry out Chaos.

Day after day,
we rehearse our deaths
in the ejection seat.

Two hundred meters
and one grave deeper:
How comforting it is,
the red cross on the roof.

We know the sterile
scalpels, the new OR.
We know the rites
of Extreme Unction.
Sometimes we recognize both
too late.

Original

Flugwetter

Die Himmel dröhnen
Vergeltung.
Bin Schwalbenwirbel
im Sog der Gefahr
ruft das Chaos aus.Wir üben das Sterben ein
mit dem Schleudersitz
täglich und täglich.Zweihundert Meter und
ein Grab tiefer:
wie tröstlich
das rote Kreuz auf dem Dach.Wir kennen die keimfreien
Messer, den neuen OP
une die Riten
der letzen Ölung.
Manchmal erkennen wir beides
zu spät.

ganymede

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Ganymede
Jericho Brown

A man trades his son for horses.
That’s the version I prefer. I like
The safety of it, no one at fault,
Everyone rewarded. God gets
The boy. The boy becomes
Immortal. His father rides until
Grief sounds as good as the gallop
Of an animal born to carry those
Who patrol and protect our inherited
Kingdom. When we look at myth
This way, nobody bothers saying
Rape. I mean, don’t you want God
To want you? Don’t you dream
Of someone with wings taking you
Up? And when the master comes
For our children, he smells
Like the men who own stables
In Heaven, that far terrain
Between Promise and Apology.
No one has to convince us.
The people of my country believe
We can’t be hurt if we can be bought.

 

stake

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Stake
Jericho Brown

I am a they in most of America.
Someone feels lost in the forest 
Of we, so he can’t imagine
A single tree.  He can’t bear it.
A cross. A crucifixion.  Such
A Christian. All that wood
Headed his way in the fact
Of a man or a woman who
Might as well be a secret, so
Serious his need to see inside.
To cut down. To tell. How
Old will I get to be in a nation
That believes we can grow out
Of a grave? Can reach. Climb
High as the First State Bank.
Take a bullet. Break through
Concrete. The sidewalk.
The street someone crosses
When he sees wilderness where
He wanted his city. His cross-
Tie. His telephone pole.
Timber. Timbre. It’s an awful
Sound, and people pay to hear
It. People say bad things about
Me, though they don’t know
My name. I have a name. 
A stake. I settle. Dig. Die. 
Go underground. Tunnel
The ocean floor. Root. Shoot
Up like a thought someone
Planted. Someone planted
An idea of me. A lie. A lawn
Jockey. The myth of a wooded
Hamlet in America, a thicket,
Hell, a patch of sunlit grass
Where any one of us bursts into
One someone as whole as we.

second language

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Second Language
Jericho Brown

You come with a little
Black string tied
Around your tongue,
Knotted to remind
Where you came from
And why you left
Behind photographs
Of people whose
Names need no
Pronouncing.  How
Do you say God
Now that the night
Rises sooner?  How
Dare you wake to work
Before any alarm?
I am the man asking,
The great grandson
Made so by the dead
Tenant farmers promised
A plot of land to hew.
They thought they could
Own the dirt they were
Bound to.  In that part
Of the country, a knot
Is something you
Get after getting knocked
Down, and story means
Lie.  In your part
Of the country, class
Means school, this room
Where we practice
Words like rope in our
Hope to undo your
Tongue, so you can tell
A lie or break a promise
Or grow like a story.

Photo by Tim Boote on Unsplash

 

chagall’s village

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In Chagall’s Village
Rose Ausländer

Screen Shot 2019-12-20 at 22.19.01

Original

Im Chagall-Dorf

Schiefe Giebel
hängen am
Horizont.

Der Brunnen schlummert
beleuchtet von
Katzenaugen.

Die Bäuerin
melkt die Ziege
im Traumstall.

Blau
der Kirschbaum am Dach
wo der bärtige Greis
geigt.

Die Braut
schaut ins Blumenaug
schwebt auf dem Schleier
über der Nachtsteppe.

Im Chagall-Dorf
weidet die Kuh
auf der Mondwiese
goldne Wölfe
beschützen die Lämmer.

soft targets

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Soft Targets
Deborah Landau
It was good getting drunk in the undulant city.
Whiskey lopping off the day’s fear.

Dawn came with an element of Xanax.
Dusk came and I dumbed myself down.

Where there were brides, grooms–
bored boysoldiers with iphones and guns.

I’m a soft target, you’re a soft target,
and the city has a hundred hundred thousand softs.

The pervious skin, the softness of the face,
the wrist inners, the hips, the lips, the tongue,

the global body,
its infinite permute softnesses.

~
Soft targets, soft readers, drinkers,
pedestrians in rain–

In the failing light we walked out
and now we share a room with it

(would you like to read to me in the soft,
would you like to enter me in the soft,

would you like a lunch of me in the soft,
in its long delirium?)

The good news is we have each other.
The bad news is: Kalashnikov assault rifles,

a submachine gun, pistols, ammunition,
and four boxes packed with thousands of small steel balls.

~
O you who want to slaughter us, we’ll be dead soon
enough what’s the rush.

And this our only world.
As you can see it has a problem.

As you can see the citizens are hanging heavy.
The citizens’ minds are out.

Eros, eros, in Paris we stayed all night
in a seraphic cocktail haze

despite the blacked out theater,
the shuttered panes.

Tonight we’re the most tender of soft targets,
reclining by the river pulpy with alcohol and all a-sloth.

Monsieur can we get a few more?
There are unmistakable signs of trouble,

but we have days and days still.
Let’s be giddy, maybe. Time lights a little fire.

We are animal hungry down to our delicate bones.
O beautiful habits of living, let me dwell on you awhile.

Photo by Adam Wilson on Unsplash