Paul Archer - photo Paul Archer - poet, translator



The land of fog

(English translation of 'Nebelland' by Ingeborg Bachmann)

In Winter my beloved is among
the animals in the forest.
I must return before morning,
the vixen knows this and laughs.
How the clouds shiver! And onto
my snowy collar falls
another layer of brittle ice.

In Winter my beloved is
a tree among trees and she invites
down-on-their-luck crows
into her lovely branches. She knows
when light breaks, the wind
lifts her crisp frost-filled
evening gown and chases me home.

In Winter my beloved
is among the fish and silent.
Slave to the waters, the line
of their fins inwardly moves,
I stay on the shore and watch
how she dives and turns
until the ice-floes force me away.

And hit again by the hunting cry
Of a bird whose wings stiffen
Over me, I fall
On the open field: she rips
The feathers from hens and throws me
A white collarbone. I place it round my neck
And go onward through the acrid feathers.

I know my beloved
is unfaithful. Sometimes she floats
towards the city on high-heeled shoes.
In bars she kisses glasses deep
in the mouth with drinking straws,
and she comes out with words for everyone.
But this language I don’t understand.

I have seen the land of fog.
I have eaten the heart of fog.

For more translations of poems by Ingeborg Bachmann, go to Translations.

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