Translated by Janine Canan
Else Lasker-Schüler, 1869-1945, was a leading figure in the German avant garde in the pre-war years. A poet, novelist, and short story writer, she moved in 1933 to Switzerland before finally resettling in Jerusalam in 1940.
I cannot speak the language
of this cool country,
or keep its pace.
Even the fleeting clouds
I cannot interpret.
Night is a step-queen.
Forever I must remember Pharoah’s forests
and kiss the image of my stars.
My lips sparkle brightly,
telling of faraway.
I am a colorful picture-book
lying open on your lap.
But your face spins
a veil of tears.
Out of my glittering birds
the corals have been gouged.
Upon the garden bushes
their soft nests turned to stone.
Who will consecrate my dead palaces?
They held the crowns of my ancestors,
whose prayers sank in the holy stream.
Exhausted My Heart Rests
Exhausted my heart rests
on the night’s velvet
and stars lie down on my eyelids.
I flow in the silver tones of an étude.
Am no more and yet am multiplied a thousand times,
spreading over our earth Peace.
I have completed my life’s final chord,
quietly fading as God intended:
A saving psalm, meant for the world to practice.
An Old Tibetan Carpet
Your soul in love with mine
is woven with it in the Tibetan carpet.
Beam in beam, enamored colors,
stars that wooed across the heavens.
Our feet rest upon the treasure
thousands upon thousands of meshes wide.
Sweet lama son on a musk-plant throne,
how long has your mouth kissed mine.
And cheek upon cheek, how many lifetimes brightly tied.