In a razor sharp buzzing they come to haul me
from my bat-infested nightmare-time—
a dimming, from which they, inextricably entwined,
are just as much a part of.
The zombies and snout moths, surveyors of pits,
scuttlers, wriggling animal specters,
lustful sinister scum, the thousandfurred,
dragging tails, matted hair, nameless, creatures
with forceps and hammer-feet, grinding claws,
working, scratching, swarming and whirring—
messengers of the twilight, find
the nightly bread, and from their sleeping hole,
they drop—Oberon’s twilight apparatus—
right into my expiring hand
on the edge of the bed.
I still live. Spread my fingers,
cannot wake up, banished
into the vicious circle of a dream:
And how they come running,
those 13-legged spiders
across their finely spun house of the dead—
and where do the anonymous black tortoise beetles
on wheels come from? On the curtain three dark tents
are moths, apparently dead; over the mountain
a strip of yellow, the morning wasteland lies horizontal.
In the twilight the vermin stir.
Some are sucked back into the nightmare;
those that remain, dive into cracks—
I jolt awake, remember, wide-eyed, that it was
a summer night’s dream. On the window pane
the day fly, alone, fragile.
Erika Burkart was born in Aarau, Switzerland, in 1922. Throughout her career she published over twenty-four collections of poetry, eight prose works, and was awarded numerous literary prizes, including the Conrad-Ferdinand-Meyer-Preis (1961) and the Gottfried-Keller-Preis (1992). She was the only woman ever to have been awarded Switzerland’s highest literary prize, the Grosser Schillerpreis (2005). She passed away on April 14, 2010.
Marc Vincenz is Swiss-British and was born in Hong Kong. His most recent chapbooks include The Propaganda Factory, or Speaking of Trees (Argotist, 2011) and Pull of the Gravitons (Right Hand Pointing, 2012). His translation of Swiss poet Erika Burkart’s collection Secret Letter is forthcoming from Cervena Barva Press. Recent publications include Exquisite Corpse, Spillway, Poetry Salzburg Review, elimae, and MiPOesias. In 2011, his poetry was nominated four times for the Pushcart Prize.