Orchard, Sunday

Henning Ahrens

Translated by: Mark Herman and Ronnie Apter


Artwork by Lauren Griffith, Carolin Trippenbach

Orchard

Lights in the barn in the evening. The quiet

munching of bulls, their muzzles buried

in the hay. Stinking

 

of fodder and cattle I went out

to the orchard. Sheep

grazed on the dew-soaked grass. I sat

 

on the meadow fence and

in the distance saw the headlights of cars the flames

of the steelworks the fire glowing

 

in the train boilers. Quietly

the sheep grazed, their teeth and tongues

plucking at the grass.  Oak leaves

 

rustled above me. Between

the roots lay a bottle

buried by grandfather. Crammed full

 

of newspaper clippings from the end of epochs

and empires. Reddened by fire bombs

and the howl of Stalin's rocket launchers

 

as polished boots torched dreams

gone cold of the family farm in the East,

its fertile soil and rich harvests. And over there

 

the train clatters.


Sunday

White Sunday tablecloth. Bells

summoning. Doves circling. Around

the corners of the table, we all

 

sat: father grandfather

mother brother. Farmhand. And ate

what was served up. Soup to dessert. Gulp

 

after gulp. After bite. Without

spilling a word. Each one

picking over sentence fragments

 

with their own hands. Kernels

and stems. Beetroots. Seen

in each other's eyes. Hen

 

and fat pig. Grandfather’s

hand settled. Gently

on my brother’s head. The farmhand

 

went across the street. To the Green

Wreath Pub. Drank

came home. Sat down on

 

the stairs. Played

the mouth organ. Ears

took that in. All

 

was as usual. White

Sunday tablecloth. Linen

from flax. Retted. Broken.

Henning Ahrens

Henning Ahrens (1964- ) is a prize-winning German author who has published three books of poetry and three novels. His word pictures are the verbal equivalent of expressionist paintings, and he deserves to be better known worldwide.

 
Mark Herman and Ronnie Apter

The opera translations of Mark Herman (1942- ) and Ronnie Apter (1943- ) have been performed in the United States, Canada, England, and Scotland. Their poetry translations have appeared in The Literary Review, The New Orleans Review, International Poetry Review, and elsewhere. They have also written extensively on translation and opera.