Asked what it is

Translated by Karen Leeder
The huge scar-pocked palm leaf
outside the papeterie in Papeete.

The bikini billboard at the bus station
of a busy mining town in Bohemia.

That moment’s hesitation in the photo studio:
how did I come to appear in this light?

The philologist’s pink index card, his
commentary on a line from the Iliad.

Letters that the lazy postman left behind
in a sack labeled “Destination: The Azores.”

Now it’s turned out different after all, so different
from what we imagined in our evening courses.

No idea who it is will one day give the speech
to summon up an army of heroes.

Fighting machines were the latest hit when
our children’s children still went to the movies.

What now? How should I pass my days,
with the world exposition long since over?

Discovered by divers, far from the coast,
a yellow pianola at the bottom of the sea.

The calm of images thick with dreams
in the banana republic of the real.
 
Translated from the German

More Poems by Durs Grünbein