Caryatid

By Gottfried Benn Gottfried Benn

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

Renege on the rock! Smash
the oppressor cave! Sashay
out onto the floor! Scorn the cornices—
see, from the beard of drunk Silenus
from the unique uproar of his blood
the wine dribble into his genitals!

Spit on the obsession with pillars:
ancient rheumatic hands quake toward
gray skies. Bring down the temple
by the yearning of your knees
twitching with dance.

Spill, spread, unpetal, bleed
your soft flowers through great wounds.
Dove-hauled Venus girds her loins
with roses—
see the summer’s last puff of blue
drift on seas of asters to distant
pine-brown coasts; see
this final hour of our mendacious
southern happiness   
held aloft.

Source: Poetry (March 2012).

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