by Georg Heym, translated by Mesocosm
A nest of young water rats in her hair,
And ringed hands like fins
In the flood, so she pushes through the shadows
of the great forests that come to rest in water.
The last sun that stumbled into shadow
Sinks deep into the sanctuary of her brain.
Why did she die? Why does she drive,
so alone, in the waters that fern and leaf confound?
The wind stands in the deep reeds. It drives
The bats off like a hand.
With dark pinions, wet from water,
They stand like smoke in the dark waterway
Like clouds of night. A longer, wiser eel
Slips over her breast. A glowworm shines
From her brow. And a willow weeps
foliage on her silent agony.
Grain. Seeds. And noon’s red sweat.
The field yellow wind sleeps quietly.
She comes, a bird who wants to sleep.
The swan’s wing covers her white.
The blue lids shadow gently down.
And by the scythes naked melodies
She dreams of a crimson kiss
The eternal dream in her eternal grave.
Gone, gone. Where the river bank roars
The sound of cities. Where the white river
is forced through dams. The reverberation is heard
With distant echoes. Where sounds below
Echo full of streets. Bells and chimes.
Screams of machines. Struggle. Where westward threatens
dull sunset in blind panes.
In which a crane with giant arms,
With black brow, a mighty tyrant
A juggernaut, so the black slaves kneel.
Burden heavy bridges, which draw above
like chains on the river, and hard spell.
Invisible she swims in the escort flood.
But where she drives past, the swarms of people pursue
With great wings of a dark grief,
Which cast shadows over both banks.
Gone, gone. As the darkness inaugurates
The westerly high summer day late,
Where in the dark green of the meadows stands
The distant evening’s delicate exhaustion.
The river carries them far away, the submerged,
Through some mourning port of winter.
Down from time. On through eternity,
which the horizon smokes like fire.
Georg Heym was an early Expressionist poet who spent much of his short life in Berlin. In 1912, he drowned in icy waters at the age of 24, while attempting to save a friend who had fallen through the ice.