Poems by Paul Boldt in English Translation by Daniel J. Webster

Young Horses

Those that know the fields in blush,
Driven on by inbred forces,
Snouts in wind, headlong they rush:
Oh, young horses! Oh, young horses!

Over ditch and stubble-grass,
By red hawthorn hedges in waves,
Trotting skittish herds, they pass:
Chestnuts, dapples, whites and grays!

Early summer mornings shed
Glistening sun, and then they neighed.
Clouds threw thunder, so they fled,
Flush with fear, they raced away.

At rare times, they will come near.
Gray noses sniff. Heads genuflect.
Pupils quiver in the spare
Visage of the human sect.

 

Spring

The whole night through, migrations came as though
In flight, with muffled steps, sans feet or limbs.
By morning, open fields had sheltered them:
The darkened woods, the sole place storms would blow.

As if a gate sprung open just to wash
The world with light that wished to spread through veins
Which pulses cleanse, the tree-sap glides in streams
Of spring and floods the lowlands and the marsh.

Like March, good fortune ambles up to me.
Young girl, it’s good that you are woman. This hour
Demands it. Kiss me! We don’t need to purr

Some phony words to reach our ecstasy.
Ah you, your hair smells of the early wind
Of white-hot sun—of sun—of sun—of wind.

 

Nights Over Finland

Off to the East, the light in fir woods fails.
From lakes in which the Ghost of Night has bathed
Its yellowed head, crowned by a smoky haze,
There is a scent of new night’s stars, which it inhales.

Some scattered fence-posts made of spruce, white-pale
Mushrooms and branches, side-by-side are glazed
In frozen lines—their borders a filigree maze—
The contours drawn in clean, ripe frost’s details.

Up to the old and rounded, blackened ice
Of earth, the rivers freeze and cease to flow.
In banks of rock, there shines the level gneiss.

And in the bright and burnished moors that glow,
Crows shriek eternally. Day—and its deeds—
The mist and cold, fall like a sack of seeds.

 

The Vistula

A theme: this River; blood-sweet memory!
At Kulm, it goes back to its savage roar.
My sail—a girl—spreads on a parquet floor
Of pewter waves that shine immeasurably.

My fifteenth year. July bursts into flames
Of hell-bright waves, in which your body’s immersed.
The viper’s flown; my whitened laughter bursts
Among green fields where currents flowed, untamed.

Some Russian rafts then pierce the end of day.
And unknown women sit by campfires there,
Their schnapps and stolen bacon mine for the taking.

We anchor while the old ones stay away.
We gorge upon each other, but fiercely stare
At this: the sound of women’s laughter breaking.

Comment: The Vistula is a major river running through
what was the West Prussian  countryside of Paul Boldt’s youth.
It is in present-day Poland. And Kulm,  mentioned in line two, is
the German name for what is now the Polish city of  Chelmno.

 

Sea-Journey at Night

These winds have tails made of a dozen gulls.
They beat the air with hollow whistling shrieks.
The sea rolls strangely forward, then it breaks
To bits and polishes the spines of shoals.

Our sail begins to crack. The oar-blade beats
Those self-same waves, which first yield at the bow
Then fall away behind, where gulls allow
Their wrath to mow them flat as sickled wheat.

The wind picks up. It doubles the breeze and stacks
Bright water-mountains steeper than before,
Just like a huntsman who’s unleashed his pack

Of maddened dogs; but unafraid, the boar
Will bare its teeth and stop to look around,
Then rip the flesh out of the baying hounds.

 

The Prostitutes of Friedrichstraße

It’s always side-streets that they linger on.
Rigged out like sister fishing ships, they dress
The same. Discerning glances will assess
Them, as they sport about like swimming swans.

Among the swirling crowds, the fishes’ route.
A bald one ogles them; a sunfish pleads
For S&M; a wide-eyed gudgeon speeds
Ahead; he’s hauled in by a painted boat.

Consumed by flesh, he shoots on deck; he zooms—
A rocket shell! They gut him of his lust,
Like careless kitchen maids who have no room

For sentiment; then, using all their guile,
Cut bait for their next catch. With bodies thrust
In silk, they step down streets with duchess-smiles.

 

At Noon

Now day sprawls like Leviathan across
The sky at rest. Its pale snout floods all forests
Leaf-shedding trees shake in their solar dress,
As if the park were lit in holocaust.

The heavy mill keeps up its even beat,
Crowned by an aqua-halo that will enhance
Twilight. But now, the water’s in mid-dance,
And azure falls in weightless noontime heat.

Some clouds of orange shall give birth at night
With shaking bellies, to lightning sheets. One sees
The wings of dragonflies and moths, though bees
That buzz inside bean-patches are lost to sight.

Within your veins, the scent of heliotrope
Is burning, cooled by sweeter jasmine. Nerves
Now ring with fantasies, the lines and curves
Of eerie fantasies by Félicien Rops. [1]

The wild boar buries shining teeth in pine,
Harassed by thirst. The state preserve for game
Is dead, and smokes like red-hot slate. In flame,
The choking night burns for the longest time.

1 Félicien Rops (1833-1898): Belgian artist whose works are
associated with the literary movements of Decadence and Symbolism,
and especially with the poems of Charles Baudelaire.

 

Night for Night

Like shining caterpillars, highways crawl
From forests over mountains into dales.
And sunset clouds lie stranded, large like whales
By lakesides, motionless, unmoving, stalled.

Daytime’s run dry. Til morning feeds it anew,
Black night will gush out from the fountain-skies.
Stars gleam, small, distant suns. Below them lies
A pond that shines like iron’s darkest hue.

The moon, a young boy standing in a pool,
Illuminates each garden bed. Like gauze,
The forest shimmers, the mountain’s cap of blue.

A small-town church-tower rises, an ornate vase,
From gaud-strewn, gabled roofs that it shoots past.—
Sleep freezes people in its plaster cast.

 

Cattle

The herd of black and white besets
The faded meadow green.
Now here, then there, the sillhoettes
Of heads cast shadows on the lea.

The pastures breathed no more. A low
Broke out from every bovine throat;
The July light began to flow,
The clouds commenced to float,

And under them, a fleshy ocean
Strolls on in cloverleaves.
The yapping dog dictates their motion.
Back off, go forward, hobbling ancient beeves.

They low and lie in grass again.
Dumb bulls go shuffling by.
The calves are chased into the pins—
As milkmaids give full-throated cry.

 

North Wind in the Summer

Sea-scented wind flies up into the land.
The darkened parklands flutter in the breeze.
And clover hills breathe meadow’s fragrancies.
The sky, unconscious of its act, now stands,

A pale-white angler in a sea of rye,
Where aqua-jets arise as flights of doves,
Where clouds run into valleys from above
The rye—whose heads bend like those fish that fly.

White clover shoves this day in June aside.
At times, some herons fly about the dumb
And muted lake devoid of fish. Bees hum
Above its face, then leave in listless flight.

I gallop under sun on my white steed,
And floating, so become the northward wind.
With shreds of sun about my neck, I wend
My way. By noon, I will have reached the sea.

The Steeple Climber

He suddenly could feel it try to grip
At him—the earth below, above the skies
In which the jackdaws hung, and where the winds would rise.
Around him now, he felt a whistling whip.

He shuddered at the sight of sea, and of a ship
That yellow billows pitched from side to side,
And saw the waves, the waves—the waves that tried,
Like weavers working, to mend his unformed wits.

A gargoyle jumped at him, it bayed and cried.
He quaked and grasped an ornate, upright stone
That creaked and broke—a devil, petrified,

Bounced jokes off this cathedral. All alone,
He listened close—the punch line fumed brimstone.
He fell! His chilling shriek rose far and wide.

 

The Deluge

From where the sky begins, the clouds ascend
And drink the heavens with their throats of rain.
Atop the highest rocks, the people strained
To bite blanched wits that could not comprehend

How lice could creep out of the sea, as lakes.
In last night’s storm, the tallest poplars drowned.—
They heard the stars cross night with tripping sounds
And sniff in space the scent of earth’s warm haze.

The sun then swam in water without waves.
The waters fell. The lakes all ebbed away.
Earth wore the lucent apron of the sea.

The stars stood faint, deprived of what they craved,
With raspy breath above the Eastern Cape.
One star sprang at the Earth, but missed its prey.

 

© 2005-09 Daniel J. Webster (Translations of Paul Boldt Lyrics)
Texte mit freundlicher Genehmigung von Daniel J. Webster.

Daniel J. Webster: “Keeping Order on My Shelf”
Publisher:  iUniverse, Inc.
ISBN: 0-595-33915-8
Publishing Date: 2005
EURO 10,95 (beim deutschen Amazon)/$11.95 bei Amazon in  Amerika