Wednesday, August 12, 2015

On Seven-Starred Shoes

A Listener (1899)
—Painting by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema
—Poems by Else Lasker-Schüler (1869-1945)


Come to me in the night—we shall sleep closely together.
I am so tired, lonely from being awake.
A strange bird already sang in the dark early morning,
As my dream still wrestled with itself and me.

Flowers open before all the springs
Taking on the color of your eyes. . . .

Come to me in the night on seven-starred shoes
And love shall be wrapped up until late in my tent.
Moons rise from the dusty trunk of heaven.

We shall make love quietly like two rare animals
In the high reeds behind this world.

(trans. from the German by Michael Gillespie)

 Naiad's Pool
—Painting by Herbert James Draper


There is a crying in the world,
As if the good Lord had died,
And the lead shadow, which falls down,
Suffers gravely.

Come, let us hide nearer each other . . .
Life lies in every heart
As in coffins.

You! let us kiss deeply—
A longing throbs against the planet
On which we must die.

(trans. by Willis Barnstone & Michael Gillespie)

  Woman Standing in Front of a Mirror (1841)
—Painting by C.W. Eckersberg


Jacob: a bull among his herd.
His stomping hoofs
struck sparks of fire from the earth.

He left his speckled brothers with a roar,
ran off across the river to the woods
and wrestled monkeys for their food.

He falls in fever, tired, riled
by the pain, his dislocated thigh:
his oxen face invents the smile.

(trans. by Rosemarie Waldrop)

  Abraham and the Sacrifice of Isaac (1964)
—Painting by Henry Seabright


Abraham built a town of sod
and leaves in Eden’s landscape
and practiced talking to his God.

Angels stopped in at his hut;
Abraham knew
the print left by each winged foot.

Until one day they heard the cries
of tortured goats:
Little Isaac played at sacrifice.

And God called: Abraham! He broke
shells from the sea and coral rock
to decorate the altar on the bluff

and carried Isaac there, bound, on his back
to give the Lord His due.
The Lord, however, said: This is enough.

(trans. by Rosemarie Waldrop)

 Neaera Reading a Letter
—Painting by Henry J. Hudson


Rebecca’s maid: a girl come from afar,
an angel, lovely, in a shift of roses,
and on her face she seemed to wear a star.

Her eyes modestly lowered to her feet,
her soft hands sorted golden lentils,
baked bread and pottage with the meat.

The brothers thrived near her. They could
not quarrel over the sweets
that her sweet lap offered as food.

So Esau leaves the land for good,
leaves home and birthright for this meal.
The load he wears around his shoulders is the woods.

(trans. by Rosemarie Waldrop)


Today’s LittleNip:

Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader—not the fact that it is raining, but the feeling of being rained upon.

—E.L. Doctorow


—Medusa, noting that there is a wonderful article today in Placerville's Mountain Democrat about the Nello Olivo reading series here in town. Check it out at

For more about Else Lasker-Schüler, go to

 The Embrace (1917)
—Painting by Egon Schiele