Poems by Cornelia Marks
Translated from German into English by Marco Organo
this was the kitchen
cups and bowls made of clay
lie on a heap of rubble
one once kept the sugar
for the bitter black coffee
the bulbous cup of bright porcelain
still untouched still at its place
as if the owner just left
to get some milk.
the town does not exist anymore
only its shadow is left
magnolia bloom every year
in the gardens of vanished houses
sometimes a stork spreads its wings as a sign
on the radio the news about a wedding:
the bride wore a transparent veil and a white gown.
(Vukovar in ruins, educational journey in june 1999)
My room –
a prison to you
you followed the light
against your destiny
Now you are here
circling around me
off the walls
that you’ll be visible
on them forever.
Does darting sideways
flying in a zigzag
you are tracking yourself?
At one point
you give up
as a dark spot
at the bright ceiling
I watch you
Tell me what it was like, Zuleika,
how you loved your poet, loved so much,
that your smile, you couldn’t give him,
the hopeless tender touch of your hand,
the kisses you breathed into the void
curdled to mysterious verses of dark amber
making the “Divan”
a symbol of your love,
every syllable a promising glance,
every rhyme a heartbeat,
every metaphor a hieroglyph
of the longing both of you felt.
Pieces at exhibition whisper in chorus,
hold him tight, don’t let him go…
Between all those showcases, old desks and clocks
I suddenly look right into the hazel of his eyes,
and I press it gently, that warm hand of the poet.
She got her name from a midwife
that’s what her mother told her,
who only thought about names for a boy,
who was disappointed about giving birth to a second girl.
The midwife came to help her.
Without that unknown woman she would be nameless to this day.
She should be thankful,
she knows that now.
In the past however she felt like
that name is not hers, does not belong to her,
is just a borrowed one: a limited ticket to life –
the merciful justification for a lost girl.
If you’d be a boy, said her mother, your name would be Michael.
Sometime she thinks about that Micha, as her maybe-brother,
and maybe he is somewhere, watching her from a cloud –
why did he send her first into this life, that should have been his?
He would have had it easier than her, on a way flavoured with joy,
’cause doors open wide for those, who are welcome.
Who is unwanted has to knock for a lifetime…
Micha got his name, before it was clear that he would even exist.
No name was given to her, although, or because she existed.
All his faults were forgiven, before he could make them.
She got punished for mistakes she did not even make.
For Micha, to please her father, she learned, how to play chess,
trained hard on the field, running laps, till her heart
flicked like a red candle – and in the end
coldly embraced by the surgeons tools
wondered how it still kept beating,
afraid, with a thorn in its wounded chambers.
Today she sang this little song:
I came up to here to meet you.
Finally I got my name, by you I’m born again.
Spoken by you like a poem it opens wide.
Who I was – vanished in this mirror.
I got my name by an midwife,
and you…- you have given me my face.