Poem in German
Sean O’Brien

In these days of howling sunshine
when in the grove the aspens fret and pull
like maddened horses now silver now grey
in the curdling light, when the leaves of the cherry
are first all hands and then all birds
that point the way they cannot travel with you,
what then is to be done?

In the scrublands out by Benton Spur
where once allotments stood,
under the docks and the wheeling brambles
lies a pool, not much, but still, and there
you might at last donate your mineral content.
If the mine-cold water were not deaf
a passer-by might hear the shallow chink of bones
eventually. What else had you in mind?

Look – look – the wind is scouring the yellow grass,
the aspens may come down, and even if
as you still wish you could believe, all this
is simply a misunderstanding,
it will not be rectified. Can you not
feel the way your bones already sing
the pleasures of the pool to come,
the dissolution, liquid silence? What more could you ask?
The beautiful similes. Nothing avails.

Sean O’Brien’s eleventh collection of poems, Embark, is to appear from Picador in November 2022. He has received the T.S. Eliot Prize, the Forward Prize (three times) and the E.M. Forster Award, among others. He is Emeritus Professor of Creative Writing at Newcastle University.

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