They Will Sew the Blue Sail

from Die Wörtlichkeit der Quitte [The Literalness Of The Quince]
Michael Donhauser translated by Rosmarie Waldrop


She’s stuck on her legs, sticking to her legs, and ducked down is how she carries her head, tucked into her feathers, turns her beak, a kind of needle, toware the wind. Thus compressed she sits firmly fixed in herself in the snow, seems to know no irritation except for the wind, no goal beyond the direction of her beak.

Then she stretches, cranes her neck and spreads her wings into a gull in flight, follows her beak, leaves behind a cry and small lozenge traces in the snow.


Seen from outside, that is, from inside the house, its flurries correspond to the random drift of thoughts in their scatter and clumping, when they haven’t yet enough weight to fall as words, steadily.

Nothing obliges our perception, as long as the snow hasn’t taken it over, to guess in its gestures and blurrings already a kind of narration.

Only despair meets it perhaps halfways as it makes me empathize with its drifts and search the drifts for empathy in turn.

No sooner outside in the snow, however, than all distinctions blur in favor of the pleasure and fury of its piling on curbs, blowing over crossroads, making the city into its desert.

At the same time it penetrates and turns storyteller, settles on the cornices of facades, whirls around streetcars, muffling both their silences and their roar, in a city become foreign to me.

At first suddenly, then more slowly and quietly coming to terms with it, I soon walk as a Russian might on narrow paths, around heaps, along snowed-in vehicles.

Not even the removal crews that shovel it onto carts, scrape if off the asphalt, are equal to its power; it turns them too into quotations.

Which, by the way, they have been all along, displaced to foreign parts from foreign parts or homeless and down at the heel, at best put into fluorescent orange jackets.

In the end, it turns the streets into mud, and I hear the madness no longer the snow’s, the howl of motors and wheels spinning, revving.


Dispenses with reasons for preserving itself through its way of appearing.

Hung with ash-brown wings, its fruit, until spring.

Then from soot-rusty buds sprouts blossoms on threads, without leaves.

In bunches, before the leaves, before those could protect them, unpaired, pinnate.

Or now lies sawed into limbs, has made way for its loss.