Five Poems by Helwig Brunner
translated by MONIKA ZOBEL
Cerebrum, marine

the thoughtfulness of the ocean
is less thought and more a calm
and ebb thanks to the moon’s mechanics,

the tides mimic meditation,
you believe with your comparably
small brain, and yet if this rippled

Atlantic were a cerebral cortex,
mere sea of thought, it would lend itself
especially to one thing: to oblivion


flung at the feet out of nowhere,
like the dawn issue of a daily paper
that barely scrapes by its own label,

it strikes the ground, smacks like a stack
of documents, reports on blank pages—
the undone, the unthought-of

suddenly gapes on the dark steps:
a phosphorescing deep-sea fish 
with a big mouth for tiny bits


a freehand sketch, transferred
manually from the gaze to the sheet,
without algorithms, proven rules,
formalin of the formalists;

the slanted roof I inhabit,
the horizon I walk along:
ruled features, knot after knot
they explore/explain the retina,

and the question of what happens
to perspectives in the plot of vanishing
points, are they scattered, do they clot
in droplets on the cool windowpane

A sky-blue child fidgets and waves, stomps
at one of those train stations, whose names I attempt
to pronounce under my breath; babbles silently behind
the window on platform two in his new, foreign tongue,
grates impatience against a woman who clutches his hand.
And I have also turned small again next to myself,
like a fish: pulled to the shore in his tiny mute faint,
and the cool, pale flesh already awaits the moment
beyond itself, at which you will release the bones.   

Sometimes a whole universe seems to crash
into the gap between atom & atom, a formless interior
hopelessly turns outward: estranged silhouette of the familiar;
sometimes we grope around a tree several meters
thick as if we were swallowed up, imprisoned by its trunk,
sometimes, yes: when an impression suddenly turns
to expression, we mark our presence, like the birds, with a song
that sings us, a gravity that holds us—

HELWIG BRUNNER, born in 1967, lives in Graz, Austria. He holds degrees in classical music and biology. He is the editor of a poetry series at edition keiper in Graz, as well as the co-editor of the literary magazine Lichtungen in Graz. His work has been published in numerous literary magazines and anthologies in Europe and elsewhere (e. g. New European Poets, Graywolf Press, 2008). Brunner has published eight books of poetry (most recently Vorläufige Tage, Leykam Verlag, 2011) and some novels, short stories and essays (most recently gemacht/gedicht/gefunden. über gedichte streiten, together with Stefan Schmitzer, Literaturverlag Droschl, 2011). He has been the recipient of several literary prizes in Austria and Germany.
MONIKA ZOBEL’s poems and translations have appeared and are forthcoming in The Cincinnati Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, Drunken Boat, Mid-American Review, West Branch, Best New Poets 2010, and elsewhere. A senior editor at The California Journal of Poetics and a recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship, Monika currently lives in Vienna, Austria and translates contemporary Austrian poetry.