Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Kaunas 1941 by Johannes Bobrowski

Kaunas 1941


branches over the river, 

copper-colored, like branching candles.

The banks call from the deep.

Then the lame girl 

walked before dusk, 

her skirt of darkest red.

And I know the steps, 

the slope, this house. There is no 

fire. Under this roof 

lives the Jewess, lives whispering 

in the Jews’ silence

—the faces of the daughters 

a white water. Noisily 

the murderers pass the gate. We walk 

softly, in musty air, in the track of wolves.

At evening we looked out 

over a stony valley. The hawk 

swept round the broad dome. 

We saw the old town, house after house 

running down to the river.

Will you walk over 

the hill? The gray processions

—old men and sometimes boys—

die there. They walk 

up the slope ahead of the slavering wolves.

Did my eyes avoid yours 

brother? Sleep struck us 

at the bloody wall. So we went on 

blind to everything. We looked 

like gypsies at the villages 

in the oak wood, the summer 

snow on the roofs.

I shall walk on snow banks 

under the rainy bushes, 

listen in the haze of the plains. 

There were swallows upstream 

and the woodpigeon called 

in the green night: 

My dark is already come.

(Translated by Ruth and Matthew Mead)

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