Ach/Last Call

By Robert Gernhardt 1937–2006 Robert Gernhardt

Translated By Ursula Runde

Right up to my final hour
I'll be obliging and polite.
Should I hear death firmly knocking,
I'll blithely shout: Come in all right!
What's on the schedule? Dying, is it?
Well, that's something rather new.
But I'm sure that we can swing it,
showing them a thing or two.
What is this? Your hourglass?
Interesting! And good to grasp.
And the scythe is for grim reaping,
did you say? I thought I'd ask.
Which way should I turn from here?
To the left? From where you stand?
Well, all right then. To the graveyard?
Where I take my final hand?
Yes, the glass is out of sand now.
Oh, I see, you want it back.
May I ask you where you got it?
So unusual, all in black.
Is it antique? Oh well, whatever.
I only meant to ask, old chap—
What? No questions? No more talking?
That's fine by me. I'll shut my—
* * *

Ach, noch in der letzten Stunde
werde ich verbindlich sein.
Klopft der Tod an meine Türe
rufe ich geschwind: Herein!
Woran soll es gehn? Ans Sterben?
Hab ich zwar noch nie gemacht,
doch wir werd'n das Kind schon schaukeln—
na, das wäre ja gelacht!
Interessant so eine Sanduhr!
Ja, die halt ich gern mal fest.
Ach—und das ist Ihre Sense?
Und die gibt mir dann den Rest?
Wohin soll ich mich jetzt wenden?
Links? Von Ihnen aus gesehn?
Ach, von mir aus! Bis zur Grube?
Und wie soll es weitergehn?
Ja, die Uhr ist abgelaufen.
Wollen Sie die jetzt zurück?
Gibt's die irgendwo zu kaufen?
Ein so ausgefall'nes Stück
Findet man nicht alle Tage,
womit ich nur sagen will
—ach! Ich soll hier nichts mehr sagen?
Geht in Ordnung! Bin schon

Source: Poetry (October 1998).


This poem originally appeared in the October 1998 issue of Poetry magazine

 Robert  Gernhardt


Born in Estonia, Robert Gernhardt studied painting and literature in Stuttgart before becoming a well-known German cartoonist, satirist, writer, painter, and poet. Gerhardt, along with other artists, helped to create the New Frankfurt School, which was not only satirical but also self-referential. This playful style became popular in Gernhardt’s poetry, prose, and caricatures, which often looked irreverently at cultural and . . .

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SUBJECT Living, Death


Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

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