Pigeons and Moles by Gunter Eich

Translated with an introduction by Michael Hamburger

(Skoob 1991, 190pp., pbk 7.99) ISBN 1-871438-81-0


from Poems 1955-1972...

Reliable Critic


He always leaves out

the essential thing.

That way one can always tell

what it is.

He reviews

yesterday’s farts

and today’s.

The discovery that delights him is

one of tomorrow’s farts.


En Attendant


On Tuesday we still

put our garbage in front of the door,

on Wednesday

we put the house on the market,

on Thursday ourselves,

but the refuse collectors

missed us out.

So we stay and hope

for better weeks and

dustmen who can be bribed.


from Poems 1945-1955...

Where I Live


When I opened the window

fishes swam into the room,

herrings. A shoal

seemed to be passing.

Between the pear trees they too played.

But most of them

still keep to the forest,

above the sapling plantations and gravel pits.

They’re a nuisance. But more of a nuisance

are the sailors

(higher ranks, too, helmsmen, captains)

who keep on coming to the open window

to ask for a light for their cheap tobacco.

I want to move out.


The Afternoon


The afternoon touches you

with its invisible, weightless, terrible hand.

On the rooftiles moss grows in pads of green.

What is moving? A sparrow flies up. A column of smoke frays.

One more painful and poignant moment,

then the things you see will melt down. The quicksilver thread

shoots up and falls in noiselessly frenzied fits.

The aggregate states are changing.

Houses liquify, the smoke turns to stone.

Oh, merciless silence that roars in our ears!

The world dissolves in the long-sought equation.

Nor was your heartbeat rejected. Never doubt or fear

that just now it helped towards annihilation.

Translations Ó Michael Hamburger, 1991.

* * *

GUNTER EICH was born in 1907. He served in the German army in the Second World War and was interned in an American prisoner of war camp. In 1953 he married the writer Ilse Aichinger. An outstanding poet and playwright for radio, he was awarded the Buchner Prize. He died in 1972.