Uljana Wolf

All subtitles invariably transform the original text. . . . Transformative subtitling 
implies that the original is not only what it is, but that it also exceeds itself.

Eric Cazdyn

  lauren’s youngest sister has a gift for leading guests steadily out of the vestibule. wordily, casually, sir has hardly turned the key, he’s already floating out. we just live differently in the foyer, not obliged to our own. we could do worse than wear mantlepieces, a marble statue warms you better than your own thin skin. it’d be the one to resemble us: the worse for wear, maybe ours after all.
  lauren’s youngest sister has a gift for already leading guests on in the vestibule. casually, the way she—when he still stands—floats onto his lap, only with words. after all we live in the foyer, no one’s obliged. antics, acrobatics, to be a nice mantle—everything’s camouflage. while lauren warms the marble statue by the staircase, i work out our tactics: resemblance. that way everyone sees us, and no one can take what isn’t ours.
  young sister lauren has a gift for guests, a gift for pleading, for her guests’ vests, casually, weigh wordy, sir, barely turns the key, it’s already floating out. we live for yer, no abloquation on our own. antiques, apropos tics, to be a marble statue warns you better than your own thin spin. taken that, perhaps we’d still see was: she’d be the one to assemble us. the verse to wear, maybe hours after ohr.

i mean, men sind nur big sleepers, right.
das einzige what makes them blink is mink.

  barbara’s back. hooked, lined, and cooked. no one talked faster, ran farther, never far enough. i’m helping her unpack her suitcase: gooseflesh, when the slip-dress-silk ripples through my fingers, and on her gown the sparkle of sequins . . . keep it. barbara badgers. in every corner of the room she lights another cigarette. outside the window lies lacklustre the little-town-dusk, the damn clapping sea, night of little fishes.
  barbara’s back. booked, signed, and blasé, sharp gasp, another take cut fair enough. i’m helping her unpack her suitcase: all flesh and fingers, the silk slips like water, and with the gown the sequence . . . barbara’s badge sparkles it. in each, she says, there’s another room with corners, cigarette, threaded borders, and outside again: a window, tiny town, a dam, a little sea, applauding the fishes all night.
  barbara is backed. both fort and da, that’s the catch, in the breath. fast schnapp for air, another run-through, far far enough. i help. pack your things, skins, silks: all film and finger, she streams through my hands, with paillettes and little fishes. blink blink, barbara’s keck whinge, she sequins, another fag, another fad, pacing the room, cornered, like fish, nightly applauded, in a window of sea.

meine schwester hasst fische. they don’t talk much,
and their scales make such tacky dresses.

  jane, who could be my aunt, and i shared joys and sorrows in the club. i say tree nursery, jane: beehive. apart from that: no agreement. but the garden, the gardener, the sycamore’s glowing red and the rosebush too, by the house. i encourage her: do anything. by the setting sun she’s still a stunner. that headscarf works for her, and in her sunglasses, when saying goodbye, the rows of houses on the street flow back into their ornamental shades.
  jane, for my aunts, always meant joy. her sorrows layered into the colours baumschule and bienenstock. my agreement with jane was the garden where we housed the gärtner, the glowing wood of sycamore in ambush: jane had courage, she buried it all on her own. never out of her depths, she lifts, with the setting sun, her stunned gaze, or what remains of it, under a headscarf. in her shades, the street houses ornaments, rows of them, flowing.
  bienenstock, gehstock, nursed into walking and variant blushes. agreed, the gardener meant maple, red, and glowing: jane, anything you like, very much, cheer cheer, brazenly so. dig deeper. say goodbye. look what remains of it, stunned by the sun am busch, by edging depths, flowing houses, glasses, film up, and our goodbyes work their way back into our ornaments.

my sister was too old for the nursery.
but the gardener wasn’t old enough.

  when tallulah turns her famous cartwheel, the party’s delighted. they all whisper and kiss, we didn’t even miss tallulah’s underwear! that i wear it, no one knows. we call the ballroom ‘lifeboat’, bathed in blue silk, and when tallulah calls me by her sister’s name, who’s simply ‘sister’, i follow her aboard. this way she keeps every secret in the open. until the break of day, we share a warm vest, unrecognised, and the wind.
  if you talk to tallulah about being famous, it turns into a party. kissing delighted, underway whispering, a harbour for everything you’d otherwise miss. where, we don’t know for the life of us. but if the ballroom’s a boat of blue silk that sinks with us, every dance is a distress call to a stranger sister, simply ‘schwester’. das will tallulah. she takes me, like an open secret, on board, and keeps it. make or break, sure, i’m part warm vest, part wind, unreconciled.
  ask tallulah, they all whisper, we missed a kiss that no one knows it’s wearing. ich trage sie, my lingerie as life vest, call me sister, alle an bord, tallulah’s adored, by the party, the delight, the hushed somersaults. if you ask me for advice, when she ahoys me, my distress unwinds, in the morning, the blue-silked call, the waltzing secret, takes me for buoyancy, for sisterly secrets uncloaked, and the warm mink sinks with me.

so dreht sie sich inside out.
was wie ein lifeboat scheint ist in fact der Ozean.

  who sent marlene those dolls? they sit on the deserted dressing table, nipping champagne. dolls, tell me your names, top hat perhaps, or powder box? the sloppy mouths keep silent. through the trellis light threads off-kilter strings, draws stars into the wall, into this heat. the doll with the darker skin murmurs: marlene is a ventriloquist now. another sings a song: there once was a tailcoat that later turned to dust, and our nieces, too, began to rust, marie, malade, madame.
  they sent marlene into the desert on a dolly. whoever nips champagne at her table, dressed only in a top and a hat, pulls the strings; they say she’s like a powdery cloud mouthed into allusive silence. the light filters through the slanted window—it’s too hot, we understand, to be a star. suddenly she raises her voice, without a body, to a song, a rumoring dark tailcoat vents drolly another sin, dusting the niches, where our missus is a mirage, mal d’art.
  marlene packs the wild dolls for her dessert of champagne and silence. tipped hat, this table cylinders out of control. say, is this a mouth pursing lips, a slanted widow; those light shawls heat every star well, for running threads. the mirage suits the doll who sings a song, toll! suddenly praises her choices, those bodies in trellis, tailed and coated, ein rumoren from the venting crowds, her entourage, vielleicht morgen, mal d’aubade, how schade.

my sister left to become a star. people say
she deserted us, but i know better . . .

  with aunt lana at the petrol station, at the beach, the theatre. a day like a script. we’re in her dressing room before the window-sized mirror, her game’s mine, meins, quite simply, goof. on her cabinet a patch of ash, the drama review, the letter just penned, to detlef, as i know. but i don’t know where the light comes from. in the golden frame behind her the room is running late into darkness, delays itself into the dark. under these circumstances i don’t find myself rendered completely, not quite on call.
  stationed with aunt lana in the theatre patrol. the script says beach. we practice, fronting the window-sized mirrors, she’s a play-mine, i’m all dimples, aloof. we patch the escritoire with ash, the drama review, the white in the letter to detlef too. if there shall be light again who knows, and yet in the golden range of frames she holds up, dark and late. those circumstantial selves, as usual, render me an unfinished encore.
  aunt lana’s tank top says a day at the beach is a script. i patrol her theatrically. we practice. we play mirrors, size each other up, quite gemein, dim down, the ash’s proof. with esprit and cash we write, the drama, the letters, lightly and knowing. a stain. if, again, and yet. our extent is dark, as usual, we’re framed into golden latitudes, for good measure, not quite da capo.

really, my mom’s sister is an imitation of
herself. she smokes and the mirror lights up.

  gene’s a genie, bashful. i want to paint her portrait, but she doesn’t stay still. her coat is white, her hat is white, and then the quiet, grey flicker of the fireplace—it’s hard to find her contours. a shadow’s cast on the fauteuil. he shows us his credentials. gene and i don’t waver, we leave the canvas, which we call laura, to him, and run past his immobile face, the old grandfather clock and the testimony of the false interior.
  gene’s a genius, embarrassed by her genes. neither she nor i can picture that. a white coat, that yes, fires the pace a whit, we quiet the hot bickering, not hard to call it borderline. not even the colour of the armchair lends us credence. released from the canvassed witness, the aura of a false name, gene and i wager that our interior shadow will pass, we clock him, steadfast, granted there’s no further fuss.
  some gin for gene, gerne, no shame. thou shalt not make an image of a coat. at a standstill it is white, a blank face, those why’s, we place the fire into wit, the sketchy glint of it. not even the armchair could be duller. it bends to our confidentials. gene and i grant laura leave, call it her fault, and run into the canvas, that graver silhouette, and when we can’t go further, we test the ledge’s steadiness with our fuß.

electroshock? sister, being in the picture
doesn’t mean you have to play a painting.

translated from the German by Sophie Seita

Subsisters was written with: Howard Hawks: The Big Sleep, Fritz Lang: Clash by Night, Douglas Sirk: All That Heaven Allows, Alfred Hitchcock: Lifeboat, Josef von Sternberg: Morocco, Douglas Sirk: Imitation of Life, Otto Preminger: Laura.