What’s Bad

By Gottfried Benn Gottfried Benn Read the Q & A
Not reading English,
and hearing about a new English thriller
that hasn’t been translated.

Seeing a cold beer when it’s hot out,
and not being able to afford it.

Having an idea
that you can’t encapsulate in a line of Hölderlin,
the way the professors do.

Hearing the waves beat against the shore on holiday at night,
and telling yourself it’s what they always do.

Very bad: being invited out,
when your own room at home is quieter,
the coffee is better,
and you don’t have to make small talk.

And worst of all:
not to die in summer,
when the days are long
and the earth yields easily to the spade.

Source: Poetry (November 2009).


This poem originally appeared in the November 2009 issue of Poetry magazine

November 2009

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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