By Hans Magnus Enzenberger
At first it was an imperceptible tremor of the skin--
"Whatever you say"--where the flesh is darkest.
"What's wrong?"--Nothing. Opaque dreams
of embraces, but on the morning after
the other looks different, strangely bony.
Razor-sharp misunderstandings. "That time in Rome--"
I never said that. --Pause. Rapidly beating heart,
a kind of hate, strange. --"That's not the point."
Repetitions. Brilliantly clear the certainty:
everything is wrong from now on. Odorless, in focus
like a passport photo, this unknown person
with the tea glass at the table, eyes staring.
It is no use no use no use:
litany in the brain, a touch of nausea.
End of reproaches. Slowly the room
fills up to the ceiling with guilt.
The plaintive voice is a stranger's, but the shoes
that drop with a crash to the floor, the shoes are not.
The next time, in an empty restaurant,
slow motion, breadcrumbs, they talk about money,
laughing. The dessert tastes of metal.
Two untouchables. Strident rationality.
"Things could be much worse. But at night
the vindictiveness, the noiseless struggle, anonymous
like two bony barristers, two big crabs
in the water. Then the exhaustion. Slowly
the scabs peel off. Another tobacconist,
a new address. Pariahs, awfully relieved.
Shadows getting paler. Here are the papers.
Here are the keys. Here is the scar.
--Translated by Herbert Graf