You are bringing cake and wine, and meet the wolf.
He unzips his trousers and says:
He is standing right up against your car window
and you pray that he will not guess
that a button pressed in your red Ford does not automatically mean
that the wolf cannot lead you away from the path.
Finally the key slips into the ignition,
you turn it and start.
But the wolf snarls that you must stay for Grandmother’s sake.
His jaws are so big, he says, all the better to eat her with,
if he can’t have any cake, any wine.
That’s how this marriage begins, for you stay.
And he never quite eats all your cake, drinks all your wine,
always puts a bit aside in case of worse times ahead.
It is years before there is someone
who teaches you and Grandmother what is needed,
secretly of course, after work, at a shooting range
in the woods outside the town.
But when cake and wine are then demanded
once more and you absolutely don’t want to serve and to pour,
don’t want to lift your skirt and spread your
legs, shots are fired.
And if he hadn’t died, he’d live happily ever after.
(Years pass before a well is found,
deep enough to let things pass and fade.)
From Hunter – Monster Poems (Voland & Quist, 2013)
The error in the gene
The error in the egne
The error in the eneg
The error in the gnee
The error in the neeg
The error in in the gene
The error in in egne in
The error in in eeng inn
The error in in eeng ginn
The error in in eeng gginnn
From Mutabor – Morbus (Voland & Quist, 2015)
In the midst of despair – this is the place in the web where a stitch is missing, where
a thread lies not like a blade of grass but like a blade – there in the middle of
the publisher’s flat – this is the place where a swastika is scratched into the doorframe
just beneath the mezuzah, 4th ring of the city of Vienna –
I met Elfriede Gerstl.
I was so young that my word was not of importance.
And she found my corpulence strange, she said so herself, what a wee soul I seemed
to her, delicate, like a membrane between always seeing and always blind – this from one
who was as slight as a leaf, no, as a very sharp blade on which a hair
would split almost just from awe at the possibilities, almost just from fear of torture
through the possibilities.
How did she get in? I do not know to tell.
Perhaps the window was ajar. And the moth
Elfriede Gerstl entered the kitchen like a dream from the heydays of Escada.
What was spoken? Where women once wove. Something about the Lost
Clothes, the book, the one in production. The publisher, she spoke quickly and
Gerstl watched me as she did. We were both silent. Never since her has someone
said to my eyes that all my life I would play the role of the doll.
That was the stitch of this poet.
Years later when she died, they found trailers of Chanel
and the dreams of Elfriede Gerstl sewn from something special.
from Moden (Voland & Quist, 2017)
By Nora Gomringer
Translated by Annie Rutherford
Nora Gomringer, born to German and Swiss parents, is one of the best known poets of her generation in either country, acclaimed for her alternatively playful and piercing poetry as well as her lively performances. She has been awarded several prizes for her work, is a member of PEN and has taken up residencies all over the world. She is Director of the international artists’ house, Villa Concordia.
Annie Rutherford makes things with words and champions poetry and translated literature in all its guises. She currently works as programme co-ordinator for StAnza, Scotland’s international poetry festival, and as a freelance translator. Her translation of Nora Gomringer’s work, Hydra’s Heads, is now available from Burning Eye Books. She is also editor-in-chief of the literary magazine Far Off Places.
Photo of Nora Gomringer © Judith Kinitz