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Mirko Lauer

Vertebrate Hearts

Translated by Michael L. Smith

How can the wind
bring the yellow dust from Mongolia, foam from the coasts of Peru,
tears from Pisa
all to the same place? How can the joys and sorrows
of such different places be gathered together?

The bonfires burn among the chestnut trees,
the clouds circle in the sky,
the rain runs over the paving stones,
all in the same garden.

Men listen & the kindling says nothing, bursts into pieces,
murmurs, yields, opens its resonant glow, in branches,
delays, in small avalanches of gray cinders, offering oranges to the young
& wringing memories from the old.

The banks of clouds in the sky announce the end of the third fu1
& the heats of the Autumn Tiger;
the silences of the swimming pools & the archaic drone
of the large-leafed ventilator
bring down a harvest of pages printed
in the premature spring.

Curving before the eyes, useless strike of water over stone, the rain
reveals texture, wets lichen, launches rafts,
& the women run down paths
avoiding, with their arms held high, the gleaming crown of fertility.

& thus the clay, dust & ashes stir,
turning beauty into beauty & time into time;
& thus the meanders of the Po, the gorges of the Sunhua, the cascades
of the Lethe
engage in flooding the earth & draining it.

Silence opens its wings & folds them,
& thus the words strike against the hoarse walls
with impressions of love & death,
searching for doors & carving graffiti with mixed consequences.

Loyalties & silences are sought, perceived & lost
like words of love in the storm.
Tout dit que pas ne dure fortune. Ashes & Silences said Hernandez.2
Youth ignores how pain tastes.

But it loves to roam autumn fields
to roam the autumn fields
& write new verses
wringing melancholy from itself.

But now I know well how pain tastes,
& when I'm going to name it, I'll say Stop,
Stop is all I'll say. Or maybe nice weather. Cool autumn.

1 fu: one of the periods of the Chinese summer.

2 Luis Hernandez: Peruvian poet (1942-1977)

Continuous Bass, 1974

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