Orchard, Sunday

Henning Ahrens

Translated by: Mark Herman and Ronnie Apter

Artwork by Lauren Griffith, Carolin Trippenbach


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.


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.