26 September 2015

New Experiences

(This is my own translation of an old favorite. "Die Neue Erfahrungen" is the first poem in Peter Handke's classic collection Die Innenwelt der Außenwelt der Innenwelt. For those who have never experienced Peter Handke before, I hope you remember this new experience.)

The new experiences
by Peter Handke

1966 /
in Bayreuth /
before a performance of the opera "Tristan und Isolde" /
I stuck /
at a parking spot /
for the first time /
a coin /
into a parking meter /:
that was a new experience for me /
and because one is proud /
of new experiences /
I was proud /
of the new experience;

I asked myself:

"When did I, for the first time, close a door with my own hands? /
And where did I, for the first time, eat an ant together with a piece of bread? /
And under what circumstances did I first see water steam? /
And where did I, for the first time, lose my breath under a cellophane sack? /
And when did I, for the first time, send a letter EXPRESS?"

Once /
in which year? /
I awoke /
for the first time in a strange room /
and noticed for the first time /
that I was in a room.

Once /
on which spot? /
someone called me /
– "Quickly! Quickly!" /
to himself /
down a path /
and when I called back /
– "Yes! Yes!" /
and then ran /
and then arrived /
I noticed for the first time /
that I /
before I had arrived /
had been running.

1948 /
on the Bavarian-Austrian border /
in the town of Bayrisch-Gmain /
"in a house with which number?" /
I saw /
on a bedstead /
under a linen sheet /
behind flowers /
for the first time /
a person /
who was dead.

In Austria /
later /
"When?" /
I do not know /
"Under what circumstances?" /
When I looked up once
and caught sight of my mother
who at some distance /
"What distance?" /
At a distance from me /
she stood at the table /
and ironed /
I was overcome/
because I /
of her there /
for the first time with /
so that the distance /
to the table /
became a distance of shame.

1952 /
in the summer /
when I /
(sent home from the funeral reception in memory of my buried grandmother, in order to get the forgotten cigarettes of a guest) /
entered /
the empty /
silent /
space /
in which the deceased /
for three days /
had lain in state /
and /
in the silent /
empty /
space /
saw nothing /
but a dirty little puddle/
from a vase /
on the floor /
I had /
for the first time /
in my life /
the fear /
of death /
and only because people said /
that one in fear of death /
has shivers down his back /
was I able /
by holding before myself /
for protection /
the things people said /
once more /
to resist /
the fear of death.

Later /
I saw /
(after I had constantly heard about dangerous madmen) /
for the first time /
an un-dangerous madman /:
I slopped for the first time /
into the snow /
on Großglockner-Hochalpen Street /:
I saw for the first time /
in a film /
at the command: HANDS UP! /
a one-armed man /
raise /
his hand /:
I saw /
for the first time /
a mannequin /
with eyeglasses /:
I had /
(when it was my turn to speak) /
for the first time /
no longer anything to say.

Now I ask myself:

When will I for the first time hear from someone, who was able to take an umbrella with them in death?

Today /
(although it could be said: "I see it as if for the first time.") /
I see /
not for the first time /
a picture /
in which a representative of the authorities /
chases after
one of the people represented by the authorities /
and not for the first time /
I read about it /
that so and so had been clubbed for so long /
but /
really for the first time /
I see today /
in the street in which I live /
in front of the HOTEL ROYAL /
on the sidewalk /
a big doormat lying /
and saw a few days ago /
for the first time /
the insides of an escalator /
and saw /
for the first time /
a fish freshly caught /
in the fist /
of a king /
and saw /
for the first time /
the coffee /
abruptly spill over /
out of the cup /
onto the white tablecloth /