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Translated from the German by Teresa Iverson
Published: Sun Apr 15 1990
Salman Toor, Fag Puddle with Candle, Shoe, and Flag (detail), 2022. Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, N.Y. Photo: Farzad Owrang.
No Mourning

Translated from the German by Teresa Iverson

In that small bed, almost a child’s bed, Droste died
(you can see it in her museum in Meersburg),
on this sofa, Hölderlin in a carpenter’s tower
Rilke, George, probably in Swiss hospital beds
in Weimar, Nietzsche’s great black eyes
lay on a white pillow
until their last look—
all junk now or no longer at hand
indefinite, without essence
in painless immortal decay.

We carry in us seeds of all the gods
the germ of death and germ of happiness,
whoever divides them: the words and things,
whoever mixes them: agony and the place
where they end, wood and flowing tears,
for a few hours, a pitiful home.

There can’t be any mourning. Too far, too wide,
too unfeeling bed and tears,
no yes, or no
birth and bodily pain and belief
a nameless wave, a flicker
a supernatural thing, stirring in sleep,
agitated bed and tears—
go to sleep!

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Gottfried Benn was a doctor, lyric poet, novelist, and critic. He lived from 1885 to 1956.

Teresa Iverson is a poet and translator. Her writing has been published extensively in the United States and England. Her version of “O ihr Tiere!” by Nelly Sachs won a translation award from the New England Poetry Club in 2006. (updated 10/2008)
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