Poems by Christine Lavant
(translated by David Chorlton)


ICH HOERE KOMMEN den schweren Mond,
ich hoere gehen den leichten Schlaf,
mein Gedaechtnis schleift alle Messer
am Stein des Gedenkens.

Fuenf Kraehen frassen den Mohnkopf lehr,
seine Krone schleppt eine Kreuzotter fort
und beschlaeft in der Herzmulde traege
den Samen des Schlafes.

Die Messerchen singen fromm und gestaehlt:
Wir werden schlachten den fetten Mond,
wir warden haeuten die freche Natter
und saeubern die klaegliche Mulde.

Ich hoere fallen den schweren Mond,
ich hoere zischen das schlanke Tier,
fuenf mutige Voegel verpflanzen
das Herz in Gedaechtnis.


Christine Lavant




I HEAR THE HEAVY MOON approaching,
I hear shallow sleep walking,
my memory sharpens all knives
on the memory stone.

Five crows picked the poppyhead empty,
its crown takes a viper
and resting in the heart's hollow
the seeds carry sleep.

The little knives sing merrily and steeled:
We will slaughter the fat moon,
we will skin the insolent snake
and clean the sorrowful bowl.

I hear the heavy moon falling,
I hear the thin creature hiss,
five brave birds transplant
the heart in memory.


Translated from the German by David Chorlton




WENN DU MICH einlaesst, bevor deine Haehne erwachen,
werde ich dienen fuer dich in den knoechernen Haus,
will die Herztrommel schlagen, den Atem dir schoepfen
und dreimal die geistliche Rose begiessen
am Morgen, am Mittag, am Abend.

Wenn du mich einlaesst, bevor meine Augen verbrennen,
schmelze ich drinnen fuer dich dein Spiegelbild frei
und mach es zum Koenig ueber die Engel
und schlage es Gott als sein Ebenbild vor
voll Glauben, voll Hoffnung, voll Liebe.

Wenn du mich einlaesst, bevor meine Fluegel zerbrechen,
koepfe ich neunmal fuer dich mit der Schlange den Tod,
grab die Gramwurzel aus und esse sie selber
und hole dir dann aus dem Sonnengeflecht
das Brot, den Wein und die Taube.


Christine Lavant




LET ME IN before your cockerel wakes
and I will serve you in the house of bones,
beat the heart's drum, create your breath
and water the sacred rose three times,
morning, noon, and evening.

Let me in before my eyes burn,
and I will melt your reflection free
and make it king over angels
and offer it to God as his likeness
full of belief, full of hope, full of love.

Let me in before my wings break
and I will behead the snake of death nine times,
unearth sorrow's root, eat it myself
and bring out of the sun's mesh
bread for you, wine, and the dove.


Translated from the German by David Chorlton




ZERSCHLAGE DIE GLOCKE in meinem Gehoer,
durchschneide den Knoten in meiner Kehle,
erwaerme mir mein erdrosseltes Herz
und mache die Augaepfel zeitig.

Verkuemmert kam ich vom Mutterleib.
O haettest du mich in die Sonne geworfen
und nachts in den Hundesstern! - Dein Zartsinn ist schuld,
dass ich notrief die Brandstatt durchwuehle.

Wer hat mir die Erde zu frueh verloescht?
Die Glocke waere darin geschmolzen,
der Knoten verbrannt und mein Herz ganz erglueht,
meine Augaepfel haetten jetzt Kerne.


Christine Lavant




SHATTER THE BELL in my ear,
slash the knot in my throat,
warm my stifled heart
and ripen my eyeballs.

I came stunted from the womb.
O, had you thrown me to the sun
and to the dogstar at night! Your tenderness was to blame
that I rummaged too soon through the scene of the fire.

Who has extinguished my Earth too early?
There the bell would have been cast,
the knot burned and my heart set aglow,
my eyeballs would have a core.


Translated from the German by David Chorlton




*These poems appeared in German in the volume Spindel Im Mond (Spindle In The Moon), published in 1959 by the Otto Mueller Verlag. Thanks to the publisher for permission to use these translations.







Christine Lavant (1915 - 1973) came from a village in Carinthia, and suffered numerous physical ailments from childhood on. She once described her art as "only stunted life." Her poems won her the Georg Trakl Prize and the Anton Wildgans Prize in Austria.
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DAVID CHORLTON was born in Spittal-an-der-Drau, Austria, and grew up in Manchester, England. He lived in Vienna for most of the 1970s and became conversant with Austria, as well as travelling around Europe with watercolours and train schedules always at hand. He also committed his first tentative lines of poetry to paper before moving to Phoenix in 1978. Since then, his interests have broadened to include issues all the way from war and peace through music you rarely hear on the radio to Arizona's many colorful birds. Poems have appeared piecemeal in a long list of literary magazines and collections of poetry include Forget the Country You Came From from Singular Speech Press, and Outposts from Taxus Press in Exeter, England. His translations of prose by Austrian writer Hans Raimund appeared in 1997 from Event Horizon Press as Viennese Ventriloquies. His newest collection is Common Sightings, a winner of the 2000 Palanquin Press Chapbook contest. Essays, reviews and other prose have appeared in a range of publications from Arizona newspapers to Poet Lore magazine. His paintings, mostly watercolor, have been exhibited in Austria and the United States.
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Christine Lavant