Featured Poem

Four poems

Coup de théâtre or ‘Slaughterhouse Five’


Your labour began
in the instant when
the first bomb ripped
through the opera house roof –

Just music, we’d thought
the bombing
of Dresden
replicated in musical form –

But every note hit home
flashed through
the anxious listening
within you –

I pulled you
down the stairs
through the foyer
and out into the balmy
September evening –

Headlong and helpless
we tried
to calm
the thrusting arms and legs
the racing heart
beneath yours

Between patent leather shoes
and evening gowns you leant
bent double
up against a column:

a mother in a field of rubble
holding her child’s ears


Later in the taxi
the contractions were fainter
we couldn’t look at one another
even the quiet jazz
that wafted across
from an open balcony-window
was violence

Blind shell

In my childhood
no bombs fell
the last war was
millions of years in the past
and everywhere they were building
new houses –

only occasionally
did an excavator hit
on a petrified
primeval monster –

cars with loudspeakers drove
through the streets
and we had
to leave our homes
in slippers –

taken aback I saw
the keys trembling
in mother’s

Angel with a pair of scales
St. Michael, Altenstadt (Bavaria)

The way I move
through these flowing
autumn days
breathe eat sleep
make arrangements
touch someone’s face
turn the leaves of journals

an acrobat gingerly on his high wire –

and only
the angel
in the mighty light
of the fresco
is holding his breath


The raging within this
soundless world –

In ear-piercing silence
alarums of battle

splintering lances
collapsing horses
creaking armour
the shrieks of the dying
a legion of moans –

By mistake someone
drops a postcard –

Shocked, the viewer
spins round

Read more of Ludwig Steinherr’s poetry in Spring’s issue of New Books in German.

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About the translation:
Ludwig Steinherr
Richard Dove
Original language:
2014 Number 2 - SOLD OUT - Twisted Angels

About the author

Original poet

Ludwig Steinherr

Ludwig Steinherr has published 15 volumes of poetry. His poems have also been published widely in magazines and anthologies in...

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Richard Dove

Richard Dove was born in Bath in 1954, studied Modern Languages at Oxford and taught German at the Universities of Exeter and...

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