Rhodes, June 2000

Poems by Hellmut Seiler in English translation by Johannes Beilharz

 

Singing pipes

Rhodes, June 2000

It issues from the kitchen sink,
the drain pipe in the shower stall, the man-
holes wherever you go and listen:

a roar, deep underground, from the
rumbling entrails of the city. Is it
the turbo charged engines racing at takeoff?

The echo of traffic and the shouts of the
street traders? Or is it the underworld
filled with the cries of the tortured? Is it

only the wash of waves, the sound
of breakers intermingled with the jumble
of voices from the houses and taverns?

No, not at all. Listen: a bell calls,
planks creak under hundreds of steps
from the armories, fanfares, drum

rolls proclaim inescapable disaster.
Saber rattling, clashing of swords on coats
of mail, boom of cannons, walls

crashing down. Cries of supposed victors,
a gruesome death rattle. It makes the floor
resound, causes the groan of the pipes.

On perfectly clear days, however, when
innumerable flights tear up the sky,
the bellowing of the oracle bulls joins in.

Sign that the island is in danger.

 

High-altitude flight via Olympus

Immersed in shredded ray bundles
of an evening in May - the Olympus, bald,
godless. At least when viewed from above.

The seat of the immortals below. Above
the heads Mickey Mouse, flickering.

The sea glistens from far away, the surf
is in one's ear. "Would anybody care to
make a purchase?" Up in the sky we are
inescapably tied to the earth.

Web of clouds, words scurry
along, the only fixed point
between heaven & earth.

Deeds follow close behind
in thought.

 

Antiquity, thrice alive

In the New Hospital of the Order, Rhodes City, June 2000

I. Timarista and Krito
Krito raises her hand to her mother, wishes to
hold on to her; her head is lowered, can it drop any lower?
Timarista, before entering the world of shadows
with confidence, is trying to console disconsolate
Krito, has already set her foot facing outward,
her step faltering, interrupted in the transition
from the one life. Continually they both celebrate
eternal parting, are preserved for each other
breathlessly; they separate incessantly,
heads and hands raised to each other.
II. Her left foot outstretched, the nymph
sits on the rock, no, slips off of it:
cloak hung loosely over her shoulders,
she has been sliding a little bit, coquettishly,
for twenty-four centuries.
III. Bent over one of her sandals, Aphrodite
supports herself on a little priapus, his
member erect. Her footwear remains
untied; surprised by the spectator,
she throws back her heavy lock of hair;
and he stands, face pinched,
condemned to erection eternally.

These poems were written during a study on the island of Rhodes in May/June 2000. Copyright Hellmut Seiler and Johannes Beilharz (translation) 2000. Translation authorized and approved by Hellmut Seiler.

German originals biographical information on Hellmut Seiler translation index poetry index biographical information on Johannes Beilharz