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Three Poems


Grown sheepish
by morning I study
the grounds of my coffee

At midday I cut
a slice for myself
from the hollow pumpkin of summer

And not until dark do I risk again
the Cretan trick
of leaping between the horns

The Sky at Night

A belated excursion to
the stone collection
of our feelings

Little left here
worth showing

Is there
from an anthropological perspective
a need for love

Or merely for
yearnings easy
to disappoint

Which stars
go down
as white dwarfs

What relation
does a heavy heart bear
to the art of comedy

Does the hunter
Orion have answers
to such questions

Or are they
too closely guarded
by the Dog Star

New Jersey Journey

Spent two hours at the end of December
on the Garden State Highway
In the ancient Ford's trunk
nothing but my heart grown
heavier year by year

A protracted catastrophe:
the constant river of traffic
the endless business of overtaking
vicious eye-contact
with total strangers
in the adjacent lane

Driven by yearning
for its prehistoric brothers
a Jumbo climbs out of Newark
airport over marshes and lagoons
a giant smoking
mountain of rubbish
and the countless lights
of the refineries

Mile after mile of stunted trees
telegraph poles fields of blueberries
a Siberian countryside
colonized then run to seed
with moribund supermarkets
abandoned poultry farms
haunted by millions and millions
of breakfast eggs
harboring the undeciphered sighs
of an entire nation

Near the retirement town of Lakehurst
a safari park soundless
under its coat of frost
cemeteries as spacious
as the world war killing fields
funeral parlors dubious
antique shops and a bus station
for last trips
to Atlantic City

In the twilight of the settlement itself
ten square miles of faintly
luminous bungalows
lawns dwarf-conifers
Christmas decorations
Santa Rudolph the Reindeer
and in front of one of the houses
my uncle feeding the songbirds

Drinking schnapps
he later tells me
of the conquest of New York
Drinking schnapps I consider
the ramifications of our calamity
and the meaning of the picture
that shows him, my uncle
as a tinsmith's assistant in '23
on the new copper roof
of the Augsburg synagogue
those were the days

Next day we drive out to the coast
Seaside Park Avenue at noon
the boardwalks deserted
boarded up diners
Alpine-style summerhouses
with circulating draughts
yachts rattling in the cold
the sub-urban migration of dunes

With the brown house-high waves
in the background my uncle
leaning forward into the wind
snapped me again
with his Polaroid

Do we really die
only once

W. G. Sebald

Across the Land and the Water: Selected Poems, 1964-2001
Random House

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