Translation by Michael Hofmann
You can always go to Berlin. Remember, you’ve been there before.
December morning. Driving past the cemetery walls in the taxi,
You feel a strange pang of envy. ‘Their worries are over.’
In your eyes, forced apart by light, you have a sensation as of wet sand.
The driver is fingering his worry-beads. You see nothing but biers
In the windows, junk, behind yellow drawn curtains.
And then you begin counting. The fingers of both hands
Are not enough for all the undertakers on the stretch
Between your front door and the station, all hustling shamelessly
For the dead of tomorrow. A cutthroat business, evidently.
Everything here is right angles. Crosses and latticework cure you
Of your yen to die as a samurai with a sword in your guts.
The bakers have kneaded their dough. Different fruit gleams in flats.
The butchers are whetting their blades before getting to work.
The taximeter skips ahead twenty cents at a time – money it takes
Forever to earn if what you do for a living is turn hexameters.
A delicate shiver in your brain, the effect of so much cynicism
Taken on an empty stomach, first thing in the morning.
Silently you catch the eye of the driver in the rearview mirror.
He will have to step on it if you’re not to miss your train.
6.03, a low voice gabbles financial news on the car radio.
A raiding party on some stock exchange, someone else’s credit rating dives.
‘Ever considered the future?’ the bold print mugs you in Coffins for all the Family.
On the pavement edge, a life flashes by – a blur and gone.
‘What’s the sense in endless moping. Just leave us to do the coping.’
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