Academic journal article Michigan Quarterly Review

Sea of Helle

Academic journal article Michigan Quarterly Review

Sea of Helle

Article excerpt

This is the beginning the plunge

into the sea drunk

with the wish to bridge it

Europe in the evening and Asia after

the journey through the night

while thinking: everything that was

effortless is wrong and without the tugging

on feet and head all the way here lies

a remainder without a beginning and over there

everything was wrong Helle that you

whispered to me there in my ear

even the word Colchis

was wrong without once

having eaten of

the freshly slaughtered sheep here

on the only plates

with gold trim (did we ever eat

off anything that wasn't from a set?)

Helle you put your ideas

about the Caucasus out to pasture

on the lightless sea floor: Colchis Colchis

you whispered into the curve

of the rams horns

Colchis you said hey you watch out

that hurts it-you're wrong Helle

nothing hurt the ram it was

only my thighs

pressing against his sides

if you came back again out of

the sea back from death one

more time then you would say

instead of Colchis: Caucasus

Mingrelia Svaneti Poti

you would say and not again

to the fleece of the ram anymore: see

how it shines golden

in the evening light no: see

how they will skin him

how his splendor becomes his noose

see: you will say Helle

alive again you say: not enough

of that because the fleece

makes greed and the fractured

coast the peaceful sleep of Europe

the Greeks come with ships

across the sea under which

sleeps your sister Helle

a girl on the dark sea floor

in sneakers and a hoodie

and a pocketknife that nobody expects

to have such a blade

they have to sail over her

the Greeks and high above them flies

my brother on the ram

his flight as swift as my sleep

behind us in our beds

fear small and curled

as when we were children and later

the white clasped buckle

of my fingers tight round his waist

until I let go fell and sank

and everything wrong was not as swift

as my death and the surprise

on my brother's face: Helle there where you lie

on the sea floor with your ideas about Colchis

is the grave of possibilities

your body disintegrated not ripped to pieces for

Asia never tugged at your head

while my ideas scattered themselves

barren across the sea

with Europe at my feet and Asia

at my head that is the end Helle

I live on and you stay dead

Translated from the German

by Monika Cassel

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