Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Die Kindertotenlieder

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 niƱos 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?

1 comment:

ayla said...

luce, im a big fan of this one