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 ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


 

Poems by Elisabeth Schmeidel, translated from the German by Stuart Friebert

 

LOVE IT OR

Fully informed about America
newspaper readers, TV watchers, political types.
No airline ticket’s necessary,
the guy with short legs,
who never, he says, never
(with emphasis)

America never — I
know for certain, he says.

I try something else,
name Harrington e.g.
Sorry, the guy with short legs says and
proves to be verbally emancipated,
I don’t know these women . . .

 


 

FORGIVE ME

for not having told you about
that friend who is me:
woman-in-love since I was born.

Faked motherhood is his favorite,
so he gave birth to my twins caressing
your breasts, monuments out there —
part of a landscape piece-broken
like a puzzle
once
tinted by love.

Ready to introduce you to him
he took off – wrapped with
my skin. Inch-by-inch
my body starts bleeding.
He’ll be back soon enough, I trust,
to prevent actions like
first-aid emergency and so on…
He knows when it’s time to.
And —
don’t panic, I’ll shut off the light
before I leave.

 


 

NUMBERS and NAMES

you wrote down on
a piece of material you left
behind,
a kind of survival kit,
tools to use
while you’re gone.

A woman crosses the street.
Moving as slowly as she looks ancient,
unburied ages ago she now wonders
whose child she’ll be next —
eternities, we may believe so, come to
her mind…
shortly before it blows.

 


VERZEIHT MIR

Nachdenken.
Über die Liebe.
Über Ihn.
Über mein Geschlecht.

Ich war ein einziges Mal Frau:
ich war schwanger, damals.

Verzeiht mir, ihr
Ritter
Generäle
Hanswürstler
Heuschrecken
Botschafter
Väter
Söhne
Knaben
Brüder.
Verzeiht mir, Freunde,
ich war ein einziges Mal
ich selbst
damals
und ich war schwanger.
Verzeiht mir,
daß ich
vorher und nachher
nichts war als
Ritterfräulein
Generalstabswitwe
Mariechen
Grille
Dornröschen
Mutter
Tochter
Mädchen
Schwester.
Verzeiht mir.
Oder habt ihr gewußt, was ihr tut?

 

EXCUSE ME

Thinking about.
About love.
About Him.
About my sex.

I was a woman only once:
I was pregnant, then.

Excuse me, you
knights
generals
clowns
grasshoppers
ambassadors
fathers
sons
boys
brothers.
Excuse me, friends,
I was myself
only once
then
and I was pregnant.
Excuse me,
that before and after
I was nothing but
a knight’s maiden
generals’ staff widow
little Marie
cricket
Sleeping Beauty
mother
daughter
girl
sister.
Excuse me.
Or did you know what you do?

 


 

WAS SIE DEM KIND SAGTEN

Das Kind wünschte, sie würden fortgehen,
die täglichen Besucher, Onkel, Tanten,
mit ihren gesenkten Körpern, Milchschokoladen.
Und. Kein zweiter Sommer wird folgen, niemand
kann von einem zum nächsten Sommer mager im Bett
liegen einen Sommer lang und dann noch einen.
Nein, das ist kein Sommer, du.

Der Weg an das Bett ist unendlich.
Blumen auf dem Tisch. Das Kind
beim Fenster will winken, verhält
die Bewegung, läuft aus dem Zimmer,
die Treppe hinunter,
auf den Kies  und
in den Schatten der Linde.

Sie heben den Mann aus dem Wagen,
tragen ihn hinauf.
Du wartest hier, sagen sie dem Kind.

 

WHAT THEY SAID TO THE CHILD

The child wished they’d go away,
the daily visitors, uncles, aunts,
with their bowed heads. Milk chocolates.
And. No second summer will follow, no one
can lie from one to the next summer gaunt in bed
one summer long and then one more.
No, that’s no summer, dearie.

The way to the bed is endless.
Flowers on the table. The child
at the window wants to wave, suppresses
a move, runs from the room,
down the stairs,
onto the gravel and
into the shade of the lime tree.

They lift the man from the car,
carry him upstairs.
You wait here, they say to the child.

 


 

BERLINER MAUERSTEINE                    

das Körnchen
der Kleinlaute
Thomas und Anette
Muck, ein Cousin
Anke und die Kinder
Jürgen Knieper, ein Musiker
Mike Cullan, selbstverständlich
Niebuhrstraßen-Bewohner
die Haubachstraße
Sally besucht Berlin
die Schnapsschwester
Barbara Baum, Südwestkorso
Michael, er sagt immer: gehts dir gut?
sehr viel Gin
die schwarze Leder-Sitzgarnitur
der französische Blasebalg
Charlottenburg
der Wannsee
Ciao
Max Frisch
Helmut Eisendle im Zwiebelfisch
Natascha
Johannes Schenk
Peer
Italiener und Pizza
Pils und Korn
die Türken nebenan
das Kreuzberg-Atelier
ein Wellensittich
Heinz und die anderen
da ist Dänemark
Savignz-Platz
Christoph Buch
alle, die kamen
viel Topfenstrudel
Shakespeare Memory
und natürlich: liebe Ruth, lieber Rügi, lieber Peter
und ein Kinderladen u.v.m.

 

STONES FROM THE BERLIN WALL

the little kernel
of the down-trodden
Thomas and Anette
Muck, a cousin
Anke and the children
Jürgen Knieper, a musician
Mike Cullin, of course
people who live on Niebuhr Street
Sally visiting Berlin
the female drunk
Barbara Baum, Südwestkorso
Michael, he always says: are you okay?
a lot of gin
the black leather of German seating
the French bellows
Charlottenburg
the Wannsee
Ciao
Max Frisch
Helmut Eisendle in the pie
Natascha
Johannes Schenk
Peer
Italians and pizza
mushrooms and cereal
the Turks next door
the Kreuzberg-studio
a budgerigar
Heinz and the others
there’s Denmark
Savigny Square
Christoph Buch
all who came
a lot of Topfenstrudel
Shakespeare Memory
and of course: dear Ruth, dear Rügi, dear Peter
and a “Kinderladen”* and much more.   

* Notice the word "Kinderladen": on one (simple) level it's the word for "children's store"/kids store, but on a DEEPER level the word for an anti-Hitler movement (Google for quite a history!) centered on anti-authoritarian teaching that enraged Hitler& Co. as it began flourishing, Berlin's the core "school" of the movement, etc.

 


Elisabeth Schmeidel (1945-2012) was born in Austria. Her father Herrmann von Schmeidel, a conductor in Salzburg, and her mother, Eleonora von Arbesser Rastburg, named her after the writer Bettina von Arnim, but she was baptized Elisabeth, absent any saint named Bettina. 
After attending Gymnasium, she passed the entrance exam with honors for the Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Vienna, where she studied with Prof. Szykowitz.
She moved with husband and daughter to Los Angeles in 1968, and began writing seriously. In 1976 she returned to Salzburg and began a teaching career in secondary schools.
Schmeidel’s work is virtually unknown in English, save for a few translations Stuart Friebert published in the 70s (in Field, Malahat Review). He’s preparing a Selected Poems, and Schmeidel’s daughter Pia Grubbauer will circulate the German twin-volume in Europe.

DECANTING: Selected and New Poems, Stuart Friebert's 14th book of poems, is due from Lost Horse Press in 2017, the same year Pinyon Press will published his second prose collection: FIRST & LAST WORDS: Memoir & Story.



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