So in the spirit of reviving this poetry blog, I have been going with 30/30 (and then some) and had an experience the other day that translated into a poem. My friend and I were talking about music, which we do a lot, and he mentioned "Die Kindertotenlieder", which literally translates to "The Dead Children Songs" in German. I found the title profoundly sad, and started looking into his life. It turns out that he lost 2 daughters to scarlet fever in the early 20th century, and went a bit mad shortly thereafter. The music is beautiful, and hopefully this poem does the composer some sort of justice.
There is no language for the music of dead children. Your symphonies translate to Chansons
des enfants mortes, Canciones por los niños muertos, Canzoni
di bambini morti, but at the end of the day
they still sound just like weeping. Like fishhooks in a woman’s throat. Gustav,
how many did you lose? Did they slide from Anna like fish,
already blue and listless, or did they move like fledglings first? When the girls went
how long did the fever take? How sweatbox-hot were their foreheads
and how many times did they forget your name? Gustav,
I am trying to understand this music. This absence. My boyfriend plays your songs
in the mornings when we wake up together, and I lie there
almost unable to breathe, hearing the words bitte,
bitte, bitte. Did you beg them not to die? Did you start composing
when you knew you could not do that much? The English horn
is tightness in my chest. The clarinets ache through my belly,
the bassoons in my calves. When the soprano sings You must not enfold the night in you
I feel it in the bone, how small and dark their coffins must have been.
There are 428 poems
and scores for only 5 of them – Gustav, when did you get tired? When
did Anna tell you she wanted to die? When you buried her
how much night did you wrap around you? Was it cold and wet like frost
or something warmer, almost quiltlike, almost safe?