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JAN WAGNER

TRANSLATED BY

EVA BOURKE

 

 

 

Jan Wagner

Jan Wagner was born in Hamburg, Germany, and lives in Berlin. He studied English and American studies at Hamburg University and at Trinity College Dublin. A literary critic and translator, he is the author of numerous poetry collections and was awarded the Leipzig Book Prize in 2015, the first time ever this award went to a poet.

 

 

 

 

Eva Bourke

Eva Bourke is a poet and translator. She has published six collections of poetry, most recently piano (Dedalus 2011), several books of translations, and edited together with Borbála Faragó Landing Places. Immigrant Poets in Ireland (Dedalus 2010). She edited with Vincent Woods an anthology of contemporary authors on music, Fermata. Poets and Prose Writers Respond to Music, (Artisan House) due to be launched in September. She is a member of Aosdána.

 

 

 

 

Three Donkeys, Sicily

 

 

they stood there like an allegory

just beyond gangi which struck like a cloud

of stone against the mountain top, their very

own painting behind the fence, mute,

 

motionless. winding through mountain ranges

the road climbed uphill with us, a mud

slide here and there, snow avalanches

of sheep that flowed across the path

 

and vanished. and now still life with donkeys

close range with their tasselled tails,

their fetlocks, sinewy as dancers’ ankles,

 

their backs pressed down by invisible

loads and each soft white muzzle

as though it had just been dipped into a meal-

 

*

 

sack, submerged in the meal of fables.

we waved, called, mocked them – they stood

focussed on nothing but their donkeyhood.

we coaxed, cajoled them – they stood

 

as though rooted in and grown from clay, as if

wholly attentive to, engrossed in some

event. was it perhaps Bethlehem

they listened for? was there a tenth or even ninth of

 

them still ambling on the road toward canaan,

did they still flick away the flies from car-

thage, egypt? was it no more than one

 

day, mere seconds, since beyond the fence

the warring multitudes of arabs, nor-

mans, the brabanzone legions

 

*

trooped past? how they seemed to gaze

straight through the car and us as a breeze

ruffled their fur, each of the six eyes

as strong as an espresso…

 

upfront the processions, dead curs,

foreign words from foreign mouths.

plantations, happenstance, green pastures

with a firmament of citrus fruits—

 

and they still motionless. a barrier

of grey. and we, more fools than heroes

long forgotten and cast out, in the rear

 

mirror the unfaltering gentle V of the ears

could still be seen down many narrow

bends, their victory, vittoria, victoire.

 

 

 

©2016 Eva Bourke & Jan Wagner

 

 

Author Links

 

Jan Wagner at Poetry Foundation

'Meet the Germans': Jan Wagner at the Goethe Institute

Eva Bourke publications at Dedalus Press

Eight poems and translations by Eva Bourke in The Galway Review

 

 

 

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