Thursday, December 31, 2009


By Günter Grass

I dreamed that I must take leave
of all the things that surrounded me
and cast their shadows: all those possessive
pronouns. And of the inventory, list
of diverse things found. Take leave
of the wearying odours,
smells, to keep me awake, of sweetness,
of bitterness, of sourness per se
and the peppercorn's fiery sharpness.
Take leave of time's ticktock, of Monday's annoyance,
Wednesday's shabby gains, of Sunday
and its treacheries, as soon as boredom sits down.
Take leave of all deadlines: of what in the future
is to be done.

I dreamed of every idea, whether stillborn
or live, of the sense that looks
for the sense behind sense,
and of the long-distance runner hope as well
I must take leave. Take leave of the compound interest,
of saved-up fury, the proceeds of stored dreams,
of all that's written on paper, recalled as analogy
when horse and rider became a memorial. Take leave
of all the images men have made for themselves.
Take leave of the song, rhymed bellyaching, and of
voices that interweave, that six-part jubilation,
the fervour of instruments,
of God and Bach.

I dreamed that I must take leave
of bare branchwork,
of the words bud, blossom and fruit,
of the seasons that, sick of their moods,
insist on departure.
Early mist, late summer. Winter coat. Call out: April April!
say again autumn crocus and may tree,
drought frost thaw.
Run away from tracks in the snow. Perhaps
when I go the cherries will be ripe. Perhaps
the cuckoo will act mad and call. Once more
let peas jump green from their pods. Or the
dandelion clock: only now do I grasp what it wants.

I dreamed that of table, door and bed
I must take leave and put a strain on
table, door and bed, open them wide, test them in going.
My last schoolday: I spell out the names
of my friends and recite their telephone numbers: debts
are to be settled: last of all I write to my enemies
briefly: let bygones be bygones — or:
It wasn't worth quarelling over.
Suddenly I have time.
My eyes as though they'd been trained
in leavetaking, search horizons all around, the hills
behind the hills, the city
on either bank of the river,
as though what goes without saying
must be remembered preserved saved: given up, true, but still
palpable, wide-awake.

I dreamed that I must take leave
of you, you and you, of my insufficiency,
the residual self: what remained behind the comma
and for years ha rankled.
Take leave of the familiar strangeness we live with,
of the habits that politely justify themselves,
of the bonded and registered hatred between us. Nothing
was closer to me than your coldness. So much love recalled
with precise wrongness. In the end
everything had been seen to: safety pins galore.
Lastly, the leavetaking from your stories
that always look for the bulwark, the steamer
out of Stralsund, the city on fire,
laden with refugees;
take leave of my glassware that had shards in mind,
only shards at all times, shards
of itself. Not that:
no more headstands.

And no more pain, ever. Nothing
that expectation might run to meet. This end
is classroom stuff, stale. This leavetaking
was crammed for in courses. Just look how cheaply
secrets go naked! Betrayal pays out no cut-rate prices.
At last advantage cancels itself, evens out for us
the balance sheet,
reason triumphs for the last time,
all that has breath, all things that creep
or fly, all that had not yet
been thought and was to be perhaps,
at an end, on its way out.

But when I dreamed that I must
take leave at once of all creation
so that of no animal for which Noah once
built the ark there should be a redolence,
after the fish, the sheep and the hen
that all perished together with humankind,
I dreamed for myself one rat that gave birth to nine
and was blessed with a future.

From 'Selected Poems 1956-1993'
Translated by Michael Hamburger

No comments: