Karl Krolow

The Pair
May 12, 2013 Krolow Karl

The Pair


Here’s how they climbed out of the nights’ custody.
Silent, with their eyes
Looking ahead.
They still sense the flood of stars in their hair
Like the veil of spiderwebs, all things wonderful
Around mouth and chin.

Morning with its rye distaff
Extrudes the sweet giddiness
From their blood.
And gentle sleep, which pestered them in the leaves,
Purified itself in the early bite of nettles,
Which hurts.

The sheaf of pain, the buried sorrow,
Grows more exact now
In the drifting cold.
The green wind tastes bitter to their palate —
Like the skin of plums, in the strong shakes of day
They find themselves in.

They move slowly in their strange limbs,
Without replies
Streaked by light.
And while sighs wend their way to the sky
A heart grown dumb must defend against ashes
And does not recognize itself.



Das Paar


So sind sie aus der Nächte Haft gestiegen.
Halten verschwiegen
Die Augen hin.
Sie fühlen noch die Sternenflut im Haare
Wie Spinnwebschleier, alles Wunderbare
Um Mund und Kinn.

Der Morgen treibt mit schmaler Roggenspindel
Den süßen Schwindel
Aus ihrem Blut.
Und zarter Schlaf, der sie im Laub gepeinigt,
Hat sich im frühen Nesselbiß gereinigt,
Der wehe tut.

Das Bündel Schmerzen , die vergrabene Trauer,
Wird nun genauer
Im kalten Wehn.
Der grüne Wind schmeckt ihrem Gaumen bitter
Wie Pflaumenhaut, im starken Taggezitter,
Drin sie sich sehn.

Sie rühren langsam sich in fremden Gliedern,
Ohne Erwidern
Gestriemt vom Licht.
Und während Seufzer sich zum Himmel kehren,
Muß das verstummte Herz der Asche wehren
Und kennt sich nicht.




Translator: Stuart Friebert, for whose first book of German poems Krolow wrote the afterword, had the great privilege of knowing and working with Krolow on a number of occasions. Enjoying “a lifetime right to translate” Krolow, he has published two volumes of Selected Poems (On Account Of: Selected Poems of Karl Krolow/The Field Translation Series; What’ll We Do With This Life?: Selected Poems by Karl Krolow, 1950-1990/Fairleigh Dickinson U. Press), and Bitter Oleander Press will publish a third volume, Puppets in the Wind, in 2014-15. The author of a dozen books of his own poems, and a number of stories, memoir pieces, essays, and anthologies, Friebert has published six other volumes: co-translations, from the Czech, Italian, Romanian, and Lithuanian.

Karl Krolow (1915-1998) was one of the giants of German Letters of  the last century.  He made his mark early and often, with poems, translations, and criticism, later adding prose to his staggering output, which includes more than thirty volumes of poems, among them several Selected tomes, each with a life and mind of its own.  Ranging across many subjects and themes, in a variety of voices, at once abstract and detached, but so focused and concentrated that what is observed and spoken becomes intimate, even voyeuristic, but never without illuminating basic human wants, needs, and values.  Krolow was fond of quoting Flaubert, who most wanted to write a book about nothing, which would wind up being about everything. That sums up Krolow’s own ways with words.  As a critic, a judge of literary competitions, as president of The German Academy of Language and Literature (1972-1975), he was generous to a fault regarding the work of others.  Almost no writer who lived during Krolow’s time was without his direct or indirect support.