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Contributor Notes

Elke Erbe Elke Erb


Translated by Rosmarie WaldropRosmarie Waldrop



From GUTACHTEN
 (1975)


Gulliver's Travels


...As I opened my eyes, dense reeds, grown shoulderhigh surrounded my 
bed; in this circle, a water bird on long legs, his beak emerged from his 
warm feathers to announce: “You are going to stay here now. I have 
adopted you.” I got up and looked out above the reeds. “Don't be 
surprised,” I heard behind me, “stranger things have been true, as you 
know.” Out on the lake, under the distant clouds, I made out a boat...


Portrait of A. E. (An Artful Fairy Tale)


As if the house could not have been preserved in this spot at any time: 
not the basement, not the basement windows, not the windows looking out 
onto the garden.

As if every war had intentionally focused on precisely this spot, on 
tearing out the stairs.

As if every storm too, every stroke of lightning had struck the walls, 
every downpour brought the dark down on the helpless.

As if precisely here a child's inconsolable sobs had been able to melt 
stones, as if here everything had happened that others were able to 
fend off.

As if here the green of the bushes cut like fire through the soft 
flowing air.

As if this spot could teach us where houses have been preserved one 
could make friends with and visit.

As if the house here had not been preserved so that foundations could 
be laid for a life.



What They Say About Me


In my palace burn twenty-five chandeliers
and three goldfish swim in my pond

I get four thousand mark for one verse
and six lines takes me a year

In the morning I can afford an egg
and a second one too, just as I please, one egg or two



Wall Painting in a Barn


With three others
she looks at the barn, old:
I'd be a brown horse
painted on the wall.

A picture lovely like earth,
a picture one barely can see
on the stones, moist, cold,
my picture painted, a horse.

Light comes in through the roof
as well as my foe, the dark.
I'd stand there, in brown paint
on stone, a horse.



Song


Mother you must be gone
the bridge has fallen down
rotten fish fling sparks
over your moonlit hair the sparks
Mother you must be gone

The waters rise and rise
long dead, long dead, long dead
behind you blue
fuses with blue
the sundog looks ahead

Mother, go to the willow tree
mother, look how it stands
alone in the open field it stands
the winds blow through the tree
mother, this you must see.



from 
Der Faden Der Geduld 
(1984)


Inedible

On a handbreadth of bare ground next to the rock by the barn lies the 
delivered dead mouse. It looks, especially where the leg angles off, as 
if the fur were rising, sinking, as if it were breathing. Well, I see 
what I see: breath. The mouse has the so-called black line down its 
back. Experienced cats, when they have played and practiced their fill, 
leave those and wander off.
1974



Peaks


    The lonely child of a lonely mother (near, left of, right of, above, 
below, behind, before lonely families...)

    The lonely child in the bosom of the family. The father is lonely, so 
is the mother. And each of the siblings, each one lonely...

    (The difference, lonely as a vanishing point, between groups one and 
two...)

    The loneliness of nature. Lonely woods, but lonely steppes as well. 
Real godforsaken countries...
    
    Long, lonely walks, a lonely wanderer, a lonely customer sits over his 
beer...
    
    The lonely cross. Their lonely nights. (Loneliness Fair...)

    The loneliness of football fans...

    After a life busy as a bee's, lonely old age. One lonely tooth. The 
family plot...

    Lonely achievement. Subtlety. Peaks of loneliness at the bottom of the 
corporation...

    (From me to We, step out of loneliness...)



My Letterature


Ah, Abraham-A, ah, nurse's breast B,
Oh lala! C-major C, daring D, rotten egg E,
farcical F and gag G, hushbaby
blue-hills H, my inconceivable I,
all sorts of jolly J, kangaroo K, lazy lice L!
And you, Urmother M, Urmother M, you
and my saber of a nose, my chin-N,
Ohlala-O, too, and you, palm-P,
you, question-Q with a rolled R,
ah, and silver S, tinpan-alley T, utterly uvular U,
vernacular V and weltschmerz W, then ex-X,
xylophon Y and cyclops Y on the way to zero-Z
and Abraham-A, ah, nurse's breast B,
Ah, my coucou cousins and
bodily bugles and winds,
who, I ask you, can find
the heart to put you out of mind?



In Front of My Eyes
Beyond the Seven Hills


Various friends of mine walk in the woods, their shoulders sagging, 
their hands roaming right and left, they walk in the woods. Their steps 
springy on this beautiful morning, on this outing, their hands dangling 
from their torsos. —Franz, Frank, Christopherus, they call with their 
ears, walk on their eyes, search the blue sky with their mouth. Me they 
can't see. I'm home. I see them walking, I see heads wandering in the 
distance, through lenses cut in Jena.



Cold Buffet


In order to partake of all pleasures, Franz Werfel, to dream a judge as 
seducer, but also, above all, as a schoolboy among others (but with 
beautiful flesh in front of him, the victim; eat, it'll rot!), the life 
of the party, the I of everything. The table is set, Werfel, Franz, 
even sacred things on the platter, camels that escape through the eye 
of the needle.