Translated by Michael Hofmann
“Jena before us in the lovely valley”
thus my mother on a postcard
from a walking holiday on the banks of the Saale,
she was spending a week at the spa of Kosen;
long forgotten now, the ancestor no more,
her script a subject for graphology,
years of becoming, years of illusion,
only those words I’ll never forget.

It wasn’t a great picture, no class,
there was not enough blossom
to justify lovely, poor paper, no pulp-free mass,
also the hills weren’t green with vineyards,
but she was from back-country hovels,
so the valleys probably did strike her as lovely,
she didn’t need laid paper or four-color print,
she supposed others would see what she had seen.

It was something said at a venture,
an exaltation had prompted it,
the landscape had moved her,
so she asked the waiter for a postcard,
and yet—vide supra—the ancestor went on,
as will we all, including even those—
years of becoming, years of illusion—
who see the town in the valley today.
More Poems by Gottfried Benn