4 Poems by Peter Huchel

German Poet Peter Huchel

(Translated from the German by Michael Hamburger)

British Translator and Poet Michael Hamburger

Even during the time it was called “Poetry Nation”, PN Review was a wholly international (if staunchly anglophone) affair, with translations making up a significant portion of the work published. These four poems from the German were from the very first issue of Poetry Nation, in 1973.

This poem is taken from Poetry Nation 1 Number 1, 1973.

PE-LO-THIEN

Let me stay
in the white wood,
caretaker of the wind
and the clouds. Brighten
the thoughts of lonely rocks.

From icy waters
the days emerge,
stubborn and blind.
With ravaged masks
freezing they look for
the thin brushwood fire
of the outlawed man
who lives behind the wall
with his cranes and cats.


MACBETH

I talked with witches,
in what language,
I don’t remember.

Blasted open
the gates of Heaven,
the spirit unleashed,
in whirlwinds
the heath folk.

By the sea
the dirty toes of the snow,
here waits a man
with skinless hands.
I wish my mother
had suffocated me.

From the stables of the wind
he will come,
where the old women
chop up chaff for fodder.

Suspicion, my helmet,
I’ll hang it up
on the rafters of night.


THE WATER-OUSEL

If I could swoop
down more brightly
into the flowing dark

to catch myself a word,

like this water-ousel
through alder branches
to pick her sustenance

from the stony riverbed.

Goldwashers, fishermen,
put away your gear.
The shy bird

wants to do its work in silence.


ARRIVAL

Men with white
ragged sashes
ride on the rim of the sky
toward the barns,
looking for lodging
for one night,
where the sybils
live in the dust of scythes.

Green-footed
the moorhen hangs
on the post.
Who will pluck it?
Who in the smoky haze
will light the fire?
Alas for the lost
crown of Ephraim,
the withered flower
on the shaft of a mower’s blades,
for the night
on a cold barn floor.

A hoof
still strikes the hour.
And at daybreak
a shrieking of crows in the sky.

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