Three Poems

Elke Erb

She and the City

Out in Vienna she alone is in Vienna
Up to the utmost until the utmost
When she takes the streetcar when she goes shopping
right and left and on every side she's in Vienna,
Vienna exists only in her care.

Out in the city only she is in Vienna
A bird's head eye and breadth of wing
A bird's field of vision in a green meadow
When she goes out in Vienna opens her umbrella
everything above and below is also Vienna.

Parents' child, grandparents', school child
Teenager college-student teacher
Adult passing through all the world's ages
Before she meets friends sees an exhibit:
She attends to Vienna she alone is in Vienna.

In Vienna she's almost always in the city.
And in Vienna she's only most exactly
In the design most concisely
When she roams around this Vienna,
and even when she peers at being-in-Vienna.

Clouds up above. I know just one thing

I walk next to the wheel.
The wagon is taller than I am.
It carries a tall load.

Behind it the gables stand
delicate with air.

They close up the roofs.

So to my right the path climbs farther.
Then it ends, but in front on the right
the chestnut tree towers.

A country path, in the village, a
village street, ours.

The cartload rolls out.
The driver on his seat?
Gazes cheerfully. The oxen gaze like oxen.

I gaze seriously.
Whoever approaches can see it.

I'm an eight-year-old.
The driver—the age of drivers.
The oxen are for their part oxen.

On the right next to my temple
the trapezoid of the wooden wagon side.

Left—nothing, the garden; in the distance,
where it ends, my parents' house.

I go with the freight.
The driver's gaze is whimsical:
Under his cap's visor

the eternal laugh lines.

I remain next to the wheel
as though I were the one who,
now and then, carefully moves the reins.

Among the motions, what's happening.
A gentle flight. 

For Example

One tile was neon green. That couldn't be changed.
It was so, is so, so it is. If it still is.

Nothing can be done. It's set in, it sits fast.
Insufficiently appreciated. Appears bearable, past.

It needs an ingredient, a certain dose of neglect,
of looking away, knowing, there it sits.

Surely it needed that. Perceptible toleration so to speak,
but with undiminished attentiveness.

Neon is a phenomenon. Think: neon.


translated from the German by Sara Edinger