“Usedom” by Gertrud Kolmar
“On a red ground a silver fish-griffon
(griffon whose body ends in a fishtail)”
All the trees have branching crowns;
All the wells are deep and black;
If I cannot live underground
I trail aloft a phosphorescent track,
When death is white
In crystal night
And, sugared hard with ice, the pinetrees crack.
Upon my breath, a foggy tower,
I bear the bulky moon, a disc of clay;
Within my shadow frightened owls cower;
Beneath my lashing tail the turrets sway.
In blowing snow
The surging sea below
Uplifts my throne on frozen waves and spray.
I am the fire, a cold and silvery light.
Three elements ignite beneath my rays:
Earth! I am the cat who haunts the night.
Water! I’m the fish in glistening glaze.
Sky! Within your brain
I am the clouds and rain
That hide your winds in fog and smothering haze.
And when, upon the altar, I must die,
Because the beast is weak and man too small,
And send the universe a silent cry,
Eternal worlds will echo back my call.
And when I bend my neck
The shaking earth will wreck
Its cities: I am greatest. I am all.
in “Dark Soliloquy: The Selected Poems of Gertrud Kolmar”, translated by Henry A. Smith (The Seabury Press, 1975)