By Günter Eich Gunter Eich

Translated By Michael Hofmann Read the translator's notes

Wake up, your dreams are bad!   
Stay awake, the nightmarishness is coming ever nearer.

To you too it is coming, though you live far from   
                                                    the places of bloodshed,   
even to you and your sacrosanct   
afternoon nap.   
If not today, then tomorrow,   
but it will certainly come.   
"Oh, pleasant sleep   
on the cushions embroidered with red flowers,   
Anita's Christmas present to you, she sat over the stitching for   
                                                 all of three weeks,   
oh, pleasant sleep,   
following the juicy roast and the sprouts boiled to pulp.   
As you drift off you think of yesterday's
                                               Fox evening news:
frolicsome Easter lambs, the stirrings of nature, the opening of the new   
                                                  casino in Baden-Baden,   
with their new Australian coach, the Light Blues pip the Dark Blues   
by two and a half lengths   
                                     in the Varsity Race—
more than enough there to occupy the brain.

Oh the soft cushion, the first class goose down!
Lying on it, you forget the irritations of the world, this
                                                           item for instance:   
the doctor accused of procuring an abortion said in his
the woman had seven children already, and she came to me with
                                             her youngest
swaddled in newspaper
because she was unable to afford diapers.
Well, these are the court's affairs, not ours.
There's nothing to be done if a has a cushier time of it than b,
and, whatever happens, our grandchildren can sort it out."

"Ah, asleep already? A pleasant waking then, friend!
The current is already live in the wire kraal, and the   
                                                           sentries have been posted."

No, don't sleep while the arrangers of the world are busy!
Be suspicious of the power they claim   
                                    to have to acquire on your behalf!
Stay awake to be sure that your hearts are not empty, when   
                  others calculate on the emptiness of your hearts!
Do what is unhelpful, sing songs from out of your mouths   
                           that go against expectation!
Be ornery, be as sand, not oil in the thirsty machinery   
                                             of the world!

Source: Poetry (April 2007).


This poem originally appeared in the April 2007 issue of Poetry magazine

April 2007


Günter Eich (1907–1972 began writing the poems that compose his first major book, Abelegene Gehöfte (Outlying farms), while being held in a US prison camp at Remagen in 1945. Subsequent collections include Botschaften des Regens (Messages of the rain) and Zu den Akten (For the record). A co-founder of Gruppe 47, Eich's honors include the Büchner and Schiller Memorial Prizes.

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Poems by Günter Eich

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Social Commentaries, History & Politics

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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