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Mithraic and Poor Summer in Franconia

By
March 15, 2012

Mithraic

Nine thousand nine hundred
and ninety-nine years
Zarvan murmured
to get a son

And now his descendants
are flogging off
the houses of heaven
and the five coasts of the earth

With his sea-goat ready
for departure the mythologist
beholds once again
the shattered world egg

Poor Summer in Franconia

The poster in the village shop
recalls the yellowed terror
of the Colorado beetle

In the backroom behind her
the shopkeeper’s children sit glued
to the nation’s wooden eye

Windfalls lie leaden in the garden
and blue in the crayfish-stream
flow the suds from the washing machine

The Moor on the hill
peeps from an American tank
among the dying spruces

In the afternoon
my crazy grandfather
torches the fields

My last aspirin
dissolves gently
in a glass

As the pain subsides
I hear once more
the call of the distant posthorn

      From Across the Land and the Water, to be published by Random House on April 3, 2012.

G

W. G. Sebald was born in Wertach im Allgäu, Germany, on May 18, 1944. His novels—The Rings of Saturn, The Emigrants, Vertigo, and Austerlitz—have won a number of international awards, including the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Award, the Berlin Literature Prize, and the Literatur Nord Prize. He died on December 14, 2001. His posthumous publications include On the Natural History of Destruction and After Nature.

Iain Galbraith was born in Glasgow in 1956, and studied Modern Languages and Comparative Literature at the universities of Cambridge, Freiburg, and Mainz, where he taught for several years. He has edited works by Stevenson, Hogg, Scott, Boswell, and Conrad, and contributed essays to many books and journals in the UK, France, and Germany. He is a widely-published translator of German-language writing, especially poetry, into English, winning the John Dryden Prize for Literary Translation in 2004.

Illustration by Johann Zahn via Wikimedia Commons

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