ISSUE 17
August 2001

James Reidel

 

James Reidel has published poems in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, TriQuarterly, Verse, The New Criterion, Ploughshares, Conjunctions, and other journals. His translations of Thomas Bernhard and Ingeborg Bachmann have appeared in The Greensboro Review, Artful Dodge, and Painted Bride Quarterly. He is the author of Vanished Act: The Life and Art of Weldon Kees, which is under review at the University of Nebraska Press. Other recent poetry can be found in the August 2001 issue of Disquieting Muses.
The Children at Play Signs    Click to hear in real audio
That Dance Around Farmcrest Circle


The boy-scout cut of their shorts bell
Eternally in the golden air

Imagined by the Duccio of traffic engineers.

Their black profiles stride as crisply scissored
As the silhouettes of the Brontës

In diamond frames.
They are the cousins of Dick and Jane

Who wear black slippers like Nijinsky's,
Who run with their legs spread

Like they just jumped from their dolphins into
   our road,
Where the slippery-when-wet car brakes,

And the restroom door-simple icons
Of the "slow schoolchildren" hold back,

Besting even the rampant stag of the deer crossing
In the vapor trails of their cowlicks.

 

 

The Snow Angel    Click to hear in real audio


I made his wings and the gown
That would bell around those bare feet
That walk across snow like coals.
I would wear myself almost to the grass
Until the cold seeped through my snowsuit
Dorsal-ventral—cold as one of them
Falling through the clouds
Enjoying that peace of your tinsel
Tearing away, torn out at the root.

I would be my own invisible companion.

I would watch the sky far too long
Without getting up,
Without turning to see
This thing like my own shadow,
The chicken-wing beats,
The empty snowcap
For the shining headful of praise.

 

 

Perhaps Tomorrow    Click to hear in real audio
English translation


Prague—The Jewish Cemetery

Cast no stone
at your brother.
You've done it so many times before
and hit yourself.
Never forget.
Lay the stone
as softly as a brother's kiss
here on the gravestone
and wall.
Rabbi Löw
will reach for your hand
and give you his blessing.


Prague—Saint John Nepomuk

Saint Nepomuk,
weathered stone bridgekeeper,
gold-starred luck bringer,
preserved in your silver coffin,
you said nothing
when you should have talked,
and found heaven
on the rack and in the river.

We are silent as well
when we should talk,
not in danger and unpunished.
Hell
for us is certain.
Perhaps tomorrow.


Jewish Cemetery—Czernowitz

One-hundred-and-six years.
You've become so old,
Mother Sara.
What all
you have seen,
experienced, and endured
in your time.
The black polished stele
does not speak of it;
nor does it know about the times
that are in neighboring
dates and marks.
But what we know begs:
Shalom.



Annemarie in der Au
James Reidel, tr.

Vielleicht Schon Morgen    Click to hear in real audio
Original German


Prag—Juden friedhof

Wirf keinen Stein
auf deinen Bruder.
Du hast es schon zu oft getan
und dich selber getroffen.
Vergiß es nie.
Lege den Stein
sanft wie einen Bruderkuß
hier auf Grabstein
und Mauer.
Rabbi Löw
wird dir die Hand reichen,
segnend.


Prag—Heiliger Nepomuk

Heiliger Nepomuk,
steinverwitterter Brückenwächter,
goldbesternter Glückbringer,
im Silbersarg Bewahrter,
du schwiegst,
wo du reden solltest,
und fandest durch Folter und Fluten
den Himmel.

Auch wir schweigen,
wo wir reden sollten,
gefahrlos und straflos.
Hölle
wird uns sicher sein.
Vielleicht schon morgen.


Jüdischer Friedhof—Czernowitz

Einhundertundsechs Jahre.
So alt bist du geworden,
Mutter Sara.
Was alles
magst du gesehen,
erlebt und erlitten haben
in deiner Zeit.
Die schwarzglänzende Stele
spricht nicht davon;
weiß auch nichts von den Zeiten,
die sich nachbarlich
in Zahlen und Zeichen zeigen.
Aber unser Wissen bittet:
Schalom.

 

 

 

James Reidel: Poetry
Copyright © 2001 The Cortland Review Issue 17The Cortland Review