Can Be No Sorrow

By Gottfried Benn Gottfried Benn

Translated from the German by Michael Hofmann Read the translator's notes

That narrow cot, hardly any bigger than a child’s, is where Droste died
(it’s there in her museum in Meersburg),
on that sofa Hölderlin in his tower room at the carpenter’s,
Rilke and George in hospital beds presumably, in Switzerland,
in Weimar, Nietzsche’s great black eyes
rested on white pillows
till they looked their last—
all of it junk now, or no longer extant,
unattributable, anonymous
in its insentient and continual disintegration.

We bear within us the seeds of all the gods,
the gene of death and the gene of love—
who separated them, the words and things,
who blended them, the torments and the place where they come to an end,
the few boards and the floods of tears,
home for a few wretched hours.

Can be no sorrow. Too distant, too remote,
bed and tears too impalpable,
no No, no Yes,
birth and bodily pain and faith
an undefinable surge, a lurch,
a power stirring in its sleep
moved bed and tears—
sleep well!

Source: Poetry (March 2011).

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This poem originally appeared in the March 2011 issue of Poetry magazine

March 2011

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