Hans Magnus Enzensberger
translated by Anthony Weir
1. THE VISIT
When I looked up from the blank
page in front of me
there was an angel in the room.
A rather ordinary angel -
presumably from the lower échelons.
You cannot imagine (he said)
how dispensable you are.
Of the fifteen thousand shades of blue,
(he said) each one makes more of a difference
than anything you may do
or not do -
not to mention uranium
and the Great Magellanic Cloud.
Even the most common lichen, unassuming
as it is, would leave a gap. Not you.
I could tell from the gleaming of his eyes -
that he was hoping for a nice long, bitter argument.
I did not move. I sat in silence
until he left.
2. THIRTY-THREE YEARS OLD
It was all so different from
what she had expected.
Always these rusting Volkswagens.
Way back, she'd almost married a baker.
First she'd read Hesse, then she read Handke.
She does crosswords in bed quite a lot now.
Men don't take liberties with her.
For years she was a Trotskyist, but in her fashion.
She's never had to use a ration card.
When she thinks of Cambodia she feels quite sick.
Her last lover - the professor - wanted her to beat him.
Greenish batik dresses, a bit too wide.
Greenfly on her Sparmannia.
Really, she wanted to paint, or emigrate.
Her thesis, Class Struggles in Ulm 1500
to 1512 and References to them in Folk Songs:
Grants, beginnings and a suitcase full of notes
not Legal Tender, of course - this is sent
to her from time to time by her grandmother.
Timorous dances in her bathroom, little grimaces,
cucumber-juice for hours in front of the mirror.
She says Whatever happens I shan't starve.
When she weeps she looks nineteen.