Saturday, April 26, 2008

German Poem

German Poem

Recently I came across this German poem. It was printed on an end-of-term exam paper from 40 years ago, in that type-written Roneo system, that made 25-30 copies before the copies became so faint they were of no further use.

There is no title and it seems to be identified by its first line which is underlined. The exam question asked us to read the poem and offer a prose translation of it. I vaguely remember that someone in our class foolishly and facetiously translated “grungolden”(umlaut on “u”) as Golders Green. The German teacher was not amused.

I can’t imagine why I kept this old paper. Perhaps the poem moved me in a way I did not grasp fully at the time. Or perhaps it is just my archaeological filing system which preserves and conceals at the same time. Now, re-reading it after the long interval, I hope the translation I offer - with the help of my Collins German Dictionary - is better than the one I did for the exam.

The name at the bottom of the poem is H.Heinze, which I assume is a typo for Heine. I’m not sure. There is a Helmut Heinze, who wrote novels and plays – perhaps it is him.

Grungolden und goldfarben leuchten die Blitzen auf…

Green-yellow, yellow-green
The lightening flashes
Suddenly across the sky:

I can’t be sure
Whether that’s you across the street,
As out of a charged cloud,
Heavy rain splashes down.

The heavy rain
Makes people run for cover –
Anywhere to find
An awning or a doorway.

While, I stand stock still
Alone on the pavement,
My Summer shirt stuck close,
The rivulets washing my back.

I saw you there,
From two Summers ago:
The love I lost.

I saw you
With your dark blue eyes
And pale smooth skin,
As the lightening flashed
Yellow-green, green-yellow,

And the rain,
In rivulets, anoints me
With your blessings
From two Summers ago.

Saturday, April 19, 2008


History Society Picnic with Arthur Cubit

The celery dipped in salt,
no pepper, and the wine
chilled in the river, not
from the fridge. Sticking
to documented foibles we
laid the patchwork cloth
on the short grass, sloping
with the sun undulating in
and out across the Downs.

These moments feeling right,
we praised the books we knew
he loved, and his own re-
examination of Auden, in the Star;
and it seemed the atmosphere
pleased our distinguished guest.
Someone derisively
cracked a joke about his old
adversaries, the second Phalanx –
the first splinter of
the Socialist Collective.
Laughter spread through
the occasion from those
who could not see his face,
his eyes darkening; then

he spoke: “Is that meant to be funny?
What gives you the right
to mock the heroic, my
companions in struggle –
insult to the Working Class.”
Silence arrested our flow;
from behind me came
the scrunching of a plastic cup;
clouds undulated
across the Downs, like sheep
entering a pen.

I was glad I’d asked
Cubit to sign his poems
in the pub before the picnic,
in the safely atmospheric
wood and glass interior
where we have our
Saturday morning meetings
every other week.