Hilde Domin

English translations by Meg Taylor and Elke Heckel

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Hilde Domin Selected Poems 2

Translated into English by Elke Heckel and Meg Taylor

  1. Wait for Nothing - Warte auf nichts
  2. Birds with Roots - Vögel mit Wurzeln
  3. The Growing of Dreams - Das Wachsen von Träumen
  4. Grey Times - Graue Zeiten
  5. Filter - Filter
  6. Ecce Homo - Ecce Homo
  7. Sisyphus - Sisyphus
  8. Fatherlands - Vaterländer
  9. ">Abolition of Binding Orders: A Perspective - Abschaffung des Befehlsnotstands:Perspektive
  10. Go - Geh hin
  11. Fingernail Sized - Fingernagelgross
  12. The Ambassadors - Die Botschafter
  13. Tricky - Vertrackt
  14. Television Poems - Fernsehgedichte
  15. Don't Be Afraid - Fürchte dich nicht
  16. At Full Speed - In voller Fahrt
  17. Bad Pact - Schlimmes Bündnis
  18. Element - Element
  19. Our Long Shadows - Unsere langen Schatten
  20. Between Always and Always - Zwischen Immer und Immer
  21. Take the Bucket - Nimm den Eimer
  22. A Golden Leaf - Ein goldenes Blatt

Wait for Nothing

From the sky tree
the clouds have fallen to earth.
The land is dappled
with large dark leaves.

In the streets of the sad
the window frames
are painted in the colour of the sky
in the colour of the sun
in the lightless houses.

Pigeon lofts on the roofs
for a light feathered yesterday
that never returns.

Only the ringing at the edge of the wood
ripples from little bells
right into the room.
Take your shoes off
bathe your feet.

Wait for nothing
only the ringing
of the little bells
at the edge of the wood.

Birds with Roots

My words are birds
with roots

always deeper
always higher
navel cord.

The day twilights
the words have gone to sleep.

The Growing of Dreams

The growing of dreams
as if the wings
to fly over these walls
are missing.

Cry for
a hand, a door
of flesh, of wood.

Grey Times


It must be kept
as it came out of grey times

people like us, we amongst them
sailed on ships to and fro
and could land nowhere

people like us, we amongst them
forbidden to stay
and unable to go

people like us, we amongst them
didn't greet our friends
and were not greeted

people like us, we amongst them
stood on foreign shores
begging forgiveness for being

people like us, we amongst them
were saved

people like us, we amongst them
people like you, you amongst them

can be stripped
and made nude
the nude doll people

more nude than animal bodies
beneath the clothes
the body of the victim

those who still have their shell around them in the morning
white bodies

lucky were those only
from pole to pole

The grey times
I speak of the grey times
when I was younger than you are now


The grey times
from which nothing separates us but
twenty years

The tops of the newspapers
red and black
under the word 'German'

I saw it once before
twenty years:

on Monday a lot on Tuesday nothing

us and the grey times


Sometimes I see you

torn apart by wild animals
by human animals

We laugh perhaps

Your fear that I never saw
this fear
I see you


and him
and her
people like you
you amongst them
people like us
we amongst them
nude doll people
who still have their shell around them today


The tops of the newspapers
red and black
under the word 'German'
The dead stand by kiosks
and look at the tops of the newspapers
with big eyes
black and red printed hatred
under the word 'German'
The dead are afraid

This is a land
in which the dead are afraid



The narrowest door
filtered through
newly gathered
the other condition
no handle left on you
for mishandling

The tenderness of awakening
and the newspaper
The sun lightens up the cul-de-sacs
you awake no more
you filter through
through all dead ends
into the untouchable

Life the untouchable
so touched
all these fingerprints on you
forget the eyes
the untouchable

does not wish you ill
does not wish you ill
And the people
the hands of the people
The untouchable
cleansed of the touchable
filter yourself
the new condition

Ecce Homo

Less than the hope for him

that is the man

Only the crucified
both arms
wide open
the Here-I-Am


Variations on an imperative theme by Mallarme

'The huge blue holes
that the birds make - the awful ones'
the black cracks of the news
early in the morning
'fill them
with an untiring hand'

Comb the mountains
wipe out
the troops of crusaders
on the way to unholy graves
the holes the crusaders make - the awful ones

fill them
with an untiring hand

And mouths that cry out
with untiring breath
in all the lands
and enormous hearts
set up new totems

rub them down with sea sand
the sevenfold heart skin - the awful one

us survivors
us born after
with the tears of the tortured

The paths are sick
the footsteps of the untiring crusaders
must be made smooth
with the untiring palm of the hand

the huge blue holes
that the aeroplanes make - the awful ones
and the black cracks

the edges of the wounds together
fill the skin of the planet
it rips
in our century

with untiring
with a never tiring hand

with never tiring breath
for the never tiring hands

Rolled uphill
the stones
become springs and bread


As many fatherlands as humanity has
each new banishment
a new country opens its arms
more or less
the arms of the passport control
and then the people
there are always some
who open their arms
in this century
the feet the arms
unregulated use of our limbs
something is always there
that is worth loving
something is never there

All these nations have borders
against neighbouring nations

Abolition of Binding Orders: A Perspective


Nothing has confused me like a pigeon
cooing on a twig between island and river
its neck was coppergreen...
Ali Ben Hism (994-1063)


Nothing has confused me like a pigeon
A pigeon's beak pushes down the lever
for a grain of corn
for a mess of potage
for a lentil
Its neck was coppergreen
the unknowing pigeon
Abel's fires burnt
he roasted pigeons
God ate the pigeons
Abel's sacrificial pigeons
fattened on Cain's corn

Fattened on Cain's corn
press the elec-
tronic levers
Cain's corn grains
pigeon beaks
electron order
its neck was coppergreen
where no one lifts a hand
the working pigeon
eagle eyed
gentle pigeons gleaming feathers
fed by Cain
love bird of Cain
nothing has confused me so much
put on the lever fed by Cain
all Abel no Cain
all Cain

Killers of people
its neck was coppergreen
where no one lifts a hand
lowers its beak
gleaming blue pigeon
pigeon beaks
break the current

Flowing conveyor belt
everything flows
blood can flow gas can flow
cooing perpetrator
lever releasing
Cain's corn

world judgement
Holy Ghost
messenger pigeon
don't eat the corn brother pigeon
Cain's corn
don't peck
the lever
eagle eyed
with your gleaming neck

This vision is based on
sorting processes manned by pigeons
in factories in the USA.



Go embrace
a tree
embrace a tree
go embrace a tree
it will weep with you

Nietzsche embraced the horse
in a square full of people
a deserted one

That was the difference then
there were horses
today we think
there were people as well
tomorrow others will think
that we were lucky
to have these human dummies
to have these hostile

Your Robinson
your Robinson
you won't exist
Elias on a helicopter
abducts the loner
no one comes
truth be honoured
no one came no one
will come


Bold as an ape's bum the earth

Wrap it in acrylic
your behind
until the rose ripens again

until the rose ripens again


Repeat repeat repeat
so that the words are not alone

In the noisy silence
the word gets lost
pass on the echo
so it can question itself

What is repeated becomes certain
what is repeated becomes uncertain

Because of this uncertainty
which begins where the word ends
the words must be said
I must say the words

Fingernail Sized

In a meadow
fingernail sized

he sleeps
the great transformer

who reaches through earth
as through water
he could
tip the balance
and fill the sail with wind
with joy
as he gets up
his dance step
feathers the fruit

the reorganiser
he sleeps

in you in me
fingernail sized.

The Ambassadors

The ambassadors
come from afar
the other side of the wall

they come
from far way

to present this word.
One stands in front of you
in foreign clothes

he brings the word I
he spreads out his arms
he says the word I

with this parting word
having just looked at each other
he is no more

but carries on in you.


In which
airless room
would hearts
be moved
when pushed?

in a vacuum
flying waterlilies?

With inertia
the aim
gets lost.

In no way
is arrival.

Television Poems


Napalm Field Hospital

On the edge of sleep
they surface
they swim
on the water of dreams
on the bed covers
a horizon of the dying
heads with huge eyes
'wars are led by people'
they look at me
the eyes

No sky has the pallor
of lamenting eyes


Burning City (Beirut)

The burning city
burns without sound

Every evening I see them
their names always changing
the reporter says
evening after evening
I can turn it off
at least while I'm awake

Don't Be Afraid

The rose says:
don't be afraid
my petals are today
quite stable
No gust of wind will
expose me
in front of your eyes.

The tree
breathes trust
and wants me to lean against it.
Be certain that
I have not been cleft.

The bird's egg
in the fork of the branch
holds the promise
of the little white balance.
It rests quietly in the wind
until the uneasy eyes in the yolk
grow a bundle of feathers,

which flies on to the twig
and sings.

At Full Speed

We sit on a train
no one asks if we
want to get off
and we move towards a bridge
and the bridge will break
This bridge or the next
will break

How much you hurt me
how much I hurt you
as we are travelling
in such a hurry
towards a bridge -
that won't hold

Bad Pact

We make a pact with time
she who skims off
all joy
"Here you are - take"
And she takes

She is very big
at taking

She is very big
at leaving
She grants us


They all swim in this

with big eyes
and sad mouths
swim around me
without hands
holding hands


in the water
in which I

Our Long Shadows

Our long shadows
in starlight
and the wine on the ground

How close to death
our path leads
Oh love think about it
how much we are on loan
how fleeting what is ours
our feelings and our selves
What you deny yourself today
and hold back from the brim
may be tomorrow
as sad and useless
as the doll
after the burial of the

Only the chiming hour
of the heart skin
stretched to its limit

Between Always and Always

Shining soft
expanse of the heart
-like between always and always-
between morning and evening
from bay to bay

The boat with the white sail
makes no wash
on the blue of your milk
The faster white of the seagull
that takes the breath with it
in wide curves
leaves no trace

But for the wandering gleam
the large slow hand that
unremittingly caressing
strokes over your eternal heart and
doesn't pause
and pushes the hours away
from the clockface of your coastline

With its index finger of shadow and gold
it directs the birds to silence
in the wide palm basket of the night
and cancels the gift of today
the tenderly short
of the light mimosas

Take the Bucket

Take the bucket
carry yourself
Know that you carry yourself
to the thirsty

Know that you are not the water
you only carry the bucket
quench their thirst anyway

Then carry the bucket
full of you
back to yourself

The going
backwards and forwards
lasts a decade

(You may do it five or six times
counting from the age of twenty)

A Golden Leaf

A golden leaf
it floats towards me
I want nothing in the world but this leaf
I stand still
and open my hand
A light wind
The leaf becomes a butterfly
I become the hunter
I haven't got a net
I'd have to go on the grass
to catch it
I daren't

I beg the leaf I beg the wind
I take a little step
and hold my hand out
The golden leaf
and my hand
miss each other
a bit - a lot
it's all the same
The leaf is a yellow
dry leaf
one of the wilted leaves
in the grass
of a blue November day