[This is my version of a poem by the German poet Gottfried Benn, titled This is Bad. I am following Harvey Shapiro’s translation. You can read the original poem here.]
“By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return. -Genesis 3:19
Someone says knowledge isn’t revealed,
experience forms it –
and you believe them
You hunger and thirst
for something you cannot hoard.
Truth is written in sight,
for you, but it sounds
like a theologian’s glossolalia.
You wear fig leaves, in flight,
stamping against garden gourds
and think that’s how guilt’s removed.
Worse: you’re thrown out,
since at home your heart’s become lofty,
strident, and you don’t like being ruled.
Awful: not to live forever
under a bright sky
where dark, rich dirt
shawls worms and creeping things – not corpses.