In a rural setting Thomas Bernhard spent many a grim winter in his sickbed listening to the howling wind or to the silence of the snow. In his poems sound is important. We may imagine him, between fits of coughing, listening to the suspicious creaks and groans of the old house; and to the birds he feared, the crows cawing in the trees; or maybe to the footsteps of a passer-by.
The following is a Poet-in-Residence translation of Thomas Bernhard's poem Unser Haus trennt die Toten.
OUR HOUSE DIVIDES THE DEAD
from sun and moon
and lets the grey flutes
spring apart along cold walls
and the lost summer's eyelids
freeze under the copper roof.
With the blackbird
the river groans, divides green from red
and snow from tears.
In midnight crows'-foot crushing wind
the flowers slumber
and under cobwebs
the laughter of the fattened pig.
Our house sends forth poisonous clouds
and fear to the forbidden towns.
under the mouldy door
the poverty of my winter message.
25 Feb 2009 gw