Reluctant Whsipers of Kissed Lips

Reluctant whispers of kissed lips
that are smiling Yes-
I’ve long since ceased to hear them.
Nor do they belong to me.
Yet I’d still love to find words
kneaded from
bread dough
or the fragrance of lindens.
But the bread’s become moldy
and the fragrance bitter.

And all around me the words sneak on tiptoe
and strangle me
when I try to catch them.
I cannot kill them
but they’re killing me.
And blows of curses crash against my door.
If I forced them to dance for me
they’d stay mute.
And yet they hobble.

But I know very well
that a poet must always say more
than is hidden in the roar of words.
And that is poetry.
Else he would not with her verses lever out
a bud from honeyed veils
or force a shiver
to run down your spine
as he strips down the truth.

‘Reluctant whispers of kissed lips,’ Jaroslav Seifert (1901-1986), translated by Ewald Osers.

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