twentieth-century german verse

twentieth-century german verse

reading the Penguin book of
‘Twentieth-century German Verse’
bought of a year it sold new for
$1 & 25c, a year long before
the wall was manhandled down
and dumped, before the jokes about
putting it back up ever started.
bought of a year i was learning the
bits, bolts & grammar struts of the
language of Rilke & Trakl to read
Hermann Hesse in his own hand
the tongue of his high-gabled town
steeped in forest and shadowed stream,
bought of a year i had not yet travelled
nor felt how cold the marble of the
seats we watched the world’s harsh
dramas from, bought of a year
those poems read of things i thought
imagined not even knowing how hard-won
any poem is that blasts its truth in
like winter winds that force the door
the poet’s only mercy that they can close
the leak of it, an ocean of ice and tears
they can hem to the page, bought of a
year it took me thirty-seven years onward from
to finally read it first poem to last
to have gained enough of a life
to read off against them, for them
to be read off against.

6 april 2015,
auckland art gallery, albert park

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