from in field latin

Lutz Seiler

the new empire

telephonerustle, birdcough: first you go
through everything again in your thoughts; the
blue waffle-tiles were there before, chest-high

the brown pedestal, oil &
shrubbery motif: shedding, almost
     music the
trickling forth of voices from
out of the ball lamps. no
labyrinth & no chandos-hysteria, just

          the smell of words & fake carnations: in
the past this window wasn't barred, wasn't
marked this script come in
to the research park they say is dead — herringbonetrim

there were parts of places, places

that i didn't know, never even
knew by name. there was
only one street &

a number for every house, with
half a bow —
the lantern. in its beam hung

small, singable pieces almost for free
over the way & chalk
for one's voice. static, the patience

of resistance, the crackling in
the life-threads. i
walked into its sound

& it silenced: animal
like i held my skull up
to the moon, mouth

half open & struck — this
is how the province nourishes me. down
from its chutes cabled

names tumble, words, still warm
on the tongue like brizke
               dettloff kaatz . . . poetry

is only a blinking, spitting, moving on; storm-train
of lanternways

when you have the benefit of hindsight

why all the same i like
to come here: it's the cold
on the eyes, impression-less places which

scatter one's glance: houses, trees, cattle — sunk
into the sound
of another plot. there

it's not really an i that speaks, it's
the small soft fingertips that
grow outwardly along the doors, it's

the doves' scissor-like wings that
push their ribcages out & yet
still climb, slowly

with tucked feet; when
you have the benefit of hindsight
maybe it's the day's last light

upon the bird's chest. from
cornerstone to cornerstone the chaff
of its shadow springs, lines upon which

the dead's voices ring. when
you have the benefit of hindsight they breathe directly in-
to your face: lodger, house-book keeper, aranka, who

sang from out of the hollows of her knees . . . you
must meditate your own bones again too, kommata
in the syntax of this region

sentry duty

i have said
something, sung without
my hands: i have

smoked up all the shadows.
lungward i took these shafts to where
the empty space begins the rustling that

     out along the paling
makes for the railway cars — seventeen years
before the text. in snowdust rolling over

bottles crap & the remains of masks where
the stillness swiftly marches
     past with

short swift shudders into
its own doing

in the evening

animals trailed behind me floating
over the tracks. some
held their mouths ajar, just

over the earth & pitched
their breath into the oily grass — isolated
clumps stubborn like children's heads

growing up out of the rubble. i saw
how the turning-to-stone begins: forever
at the ears. some solidified

at the rustling of the trees. some
suddenly snapped their skulls
into their necks & reared, a

black-hearted moon
between their hooves

translated from the German by Alexander Booth

Read the original in German

Lutz Seiler is widely acknowledged as one of the major German poets of his generation. He was born in 1963 in Gera, a town in the eastern part of the state of Thuringia in the former German Democratic Republic. He underwent training as a mason and a carpenter and completed mandatory military service. After studying in Halle and Berlin, in 1997 he became the literary director and occupant of the Peter Huchel Museum outside of Potsdam, the most recent caretaker in a line extending from the poet Huchel himself (who permanently left the GDR in 1971) to the poet and translator Erich Arendt. Mr. Seiler has published over six volumes of poetry, short-stories and essays. His many prizes include the Dresden Poetry Prize (2000), the Bremen Prize for Literature (2004), the Ingeborg Bachmann Prize (2007), and, most recently, the Fontane Prize (2010). He was writer-in-residence at the German Academy in Rome in 2010 and at the Villa Aurora in Los Angeles in 2003. In addition, he has been elected a member of the Saxon Academy of the Arts, Dresden, and the Academy of Arts, Berlin. in field latin is his most recent book of poetry.

Alexander Booth lives in Rome. He is the recipient of a 2012 PEN Translation Fund grant for his translations of Lutz Seiler. Other poems and translations have recently appeared in Dear Sir, FreeVersehalfcircleKonundrum, and Modern Poetry in Translation. He volunteers at the historic Non-Catholic Cemetery of Rome and keeps a weblog on Rome in literature and Roman literature, Misera e stupenda città. Work may also be found at Wordkunst.