Wednesday, December 17, 2014

TC: Bertolt Brecht: Why Should My Name Be Mentioned?


哈尔滨松花江. Despite heavy smog there is a lot of life on the frozen Songhua River, Harbin, China: photo by SinoLaZZeR, 23 November 2013

Once I thought: in distant times 
When the buildings have collapsed in which I live
And the ships have rotted in which I travelled
My name will still be mentioned
With others.

Because I praised the useful, which In my day was considered base 
Because I battled against all religions
Because I fought oppression or
For another reason.

Because I was for people and
Entrusted everything to them, thereby honoring them  
Because I wrote verses and enriched the language 
Because I taught practical behaviour or
For some other reason.

Therefore I thought my name would still be
Mentioned; on a stone 
My name would stand; from books
It would get printed into the new books.


But today
I accept that it will be forgotten.  
Should the baker be asked for if there is enough bread?
Should the snow be praised that has melted
If new snowfalls are impending?
Should there be a past if 
There is a future?

Should my name be mentioned?

Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956): Why Should My Name Be Mentioned? (Warum soll mein Name gennant werden?), 1936, translated by Robert Conard in Poems 1913-1956 (1976)

dock at dusk (Hikone, Lake Biwa): photo by Stephen Cairns, 16 September 2013

Monday, December 1, 2014

TC: Allen Ginsberg: A Supermarket in California

Supermarket packaged food aisles, the new Fred Meyer on Interstate on Lombard, Portland: photo by Lyzadanger, 2004

What thoughts I have of you tonight Walt Whitman, for I walked down the sidestreets under the trees with a headache self-conscious looking at the full moon.
In my hungry fatigue, and shopping for images, I went into the neon fruit supermarket, dreaming of your enumerations!
What peaches and what penumbras! Whole families shopping at night! Aisles full of husbands! Wives in the avocados, babies in the tomatoes! -- and you, Garcia Lorca, what were you doing down by the watermelons?
I saw you, Walt Whitman, childless, lonely old grubber, poking among the meats in the refrigerator and eyeing the grocery boys.
I heard you asking questions of each: Who killed the pork chops? What price bananas? Are you my Angel?
I wandered in and out of the brilliant stacks of cans following you, and followed in my imagination by the store detective.
We strode down the open corridors together in our solitary fancy tasting artichokes, possessing every frozen delicacy, and never passing the cashier.
Where are we going, Walt Whitman? The doors close in an hour. Which way does your beard point tonight?
(I touch your book and dream of our odyssey in the supermarket and feel absurd.)
Will we walk all night through solitary streets? The trees add shade to shade, lights out in the houses, we'll both be lonely.
Will we stroll dreaming of the lost America of love past blue automobiles in driveways, home to our silent cottage?
Ah, dear father, graybeard, lonely old courage-teacher, what America did you have when Charon quit poling his ferry and you got out on a smoking bank and stood watching the boat disappear on the black waters of Lethe?
Berkeley, 1955

99 Cent: photo by Andreas Gursky, 1999 (Sprüth Magers, Berlin/London)

Allen Ginsberg (1926-1997): A Supermarket in California, from Howl and Other Poems, 1956