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- The Verse of Alfred Lichtenstein - 4/10 -


Much sky lies broken in these dried-out things... Whiny cats painfully shriek bright songs.

The Cabaret in the Suburbs

The sweaty heads of waiters tower above the room Like lofty and powerful capitals. Lice-ridden boys giggle nastily. And shining girls give painfully beautiful looks. And distant women are so very excited... They have hundreds of red, round hands, Still, large, without end Placed around their high, motley bellies. Most people are drinking yellow beer. Grocers, their cigarettes burning, gape. A fine young woman sings vulgar songs. A young Jew plays the piano with great pleasure.

The Trip to the Mental Hospital

Fat trains go down loud tracks Past houses, which are like coffins. On the corners wheelbarrows with bananas squat. Just a bit of shit makes a tough kid happy. The human beasts glide along, completely lost As though on a street, miserably gray and shrill. Workers stream from dilapidated gates. A weary person moves quietly in a round tower. A hearse crawls along the street, two steeds out front, Soft as a worm and weak. And over all lies an old rag-- The sky... pagan and meaningless.

Into the Evening

Out of crooked clouds priceless things grow. Very tiny things suddenly become important. The sky is green and opaque Down there where the blind hills glide. Tattered trees stagger into the distance. Drunken meadows spin in a circle, And all the surfaces become gray and wise... Only villages crouch glowingly: red stars--

Interior

A large space--half dark... deadly... completely confused... Provocative!... delicate... dream-like... recesses, heavy doors And broad shadows, which lead to blue corners... And somewhere a sound that clinks like a Champagne glass. On a fragile rug lies a wide picture book, Distorted and exaggerated by a green ceiling light. How--soft little cats--piously white girls make love! In the background an old man and a silk handkerchief.

Morning

... And all the streets lie smooth and shining there. Only occasionally does a solid citizen hurry along them. A swell girl argues violently with Papa. A baker happens to be looking at the lovely sky. The dead sun, wide and thick, hangs on the houses. Four fat wives screech in front of a bar. A carriage driver falls and breaks his neck. And everything is boringly bright, healthy and clear. A gentleman with wise eyes hovers, confused, in the dark, A failing god... in this picture, that he forgot, Perhaps did not notice--he mutters this and that. Dies. And laughs. Dreams of a stroke, paralysis, osteoporosis.

Landscape

(for a picture) With all its branches a slender tree casts The shine of darkness around poor crosses. The earth stretches out painfully black and broad. A small moon slips slowly out of space. And next to it strange, unapproachable, huge Airplanes hover heavenward! Sinners filled with longing look up, with belief And tear themselves out of their tombs.

The Concert

The naked seats hearken strangely Alarming and quiet, as though there were some danger. Only some are covered with a person. A green girl often looks into a book. And someone else finds a handkerchief. And the boots are disgustingly encrusted. A sound comes from an old man's open mouth. A young boy looks at a young girl. A boy plays with the button on his trousers. On a podium an agile body rocks To the rhythm of its serious instrument. On a collar lies a shiny head. Screeches. And tears.

Winter

A dog shrieks in misery from a bridge To heaven... which stands like old gray stone Upon far-off houses. And, like a rope Made of tar, a dead river lies on the snow. Three trees, black frozen flames, make threats At the end of the earth. They pierce With sharp knives the rough air, In which a scrap of bird hangs all alone. A few street lights wade towards the city, Extinguished candles for a corpse. And a smear Of people shrinks together and is soon Drowned in the wretched white swamp.

The Operation

In the sunlight doctors tear a woman apart. Here the open red body gapes. And heavy blood Flows, dark wine, into a white bowl. One sees Very clearly the rose-red cyst. Lead gray, The limp head hangs down. The hollow mouth Rattles. The sharp yellow chin points upward. The room shines, cool and friendly. A nurse Savors quite a bit of sausage in the background.

Cloudy Evening

The sky is swollen with tears and melancholy. Only far off, where its foul vapors burst, Green glow pours down. The houses, Gray grimaces, are fiendishly bloated with mist.

Yellowish lights are beginning to gleam. A stout father with wife and children dozes. Painted women are practicing their dances. Grotesque mimes strut towards the theater.

Jokers shriek, foul connoisseurs of men: The day is dead... and a name remains! Powerful men gleam in girls' eyes. A woman yearns for her beloved woman.

Sunday Afternoon

Packs of houses squat along rotten streets, Around whose hump a gray sun shines. A perfumed, half crazy little poodle Casts exhausted eyes at the big world. In a window a boy catches flies. A badly soiled baby gets angry. On the horizon a train moves through windy meadows: Slowly paints a long thick stroke. Like typewriters hackney hooves clatter. A dust-covered, noisy athletic club comes along. Brutal shouts stream from bars for coachmen. Yet fine bells mix with them. On the fairgrounds where athletes wrestle, Everything is dark and indistinct. A barrel organ howls and scullery maids sing. A man is smashing a rotting woman.

The Excursion

(Dedicated to Kurt Lubasch, July 15, 1912)


The Verse of Alfred Lichtenstein - 4/10

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