even before waking up—; morning
in the symbol of the bewitching zephyr.
The seagull procession
of fortunate arabesques in the clearest sky,
waving from every balcony.
Poplar crowns, the damp landscapes—
Luster of tiles and that trembling Venus—
Stallions with jangling coins,
the fig market and the tiny violets in the milky
shade of the forest,
mosque—and no end—O hour,
the princess awaits
the opium goat!
The time has come: the leaves flicker
and above her hair
occasional hands dangle chestnuts.
The sound of splashing rises prettily around Ruhstatt;
horn, spear and booty surround us—, wine presses,
equipment for the harvest, grape-voices
extorted between flying hearts.
Skins too, pelts
hot from sun and corn. The circling and undulating
and whimpering of the eyelid
and lips: you—
That waving of some kind of hurtling
machine, and then
the landscape dries up. The houses
crumble into the rubble of bubbling
chalk and the end
gnashes its poison tooth
“Never again that refuge under chattering
leaves; never again the ladybugs’ raining
heart; and certainly never
that mesh of rays
on the breast’s flower-pillows—never!”
O Ragusa! Become that smoggy sulfur city—
The south sea dosed in kerosene and everything
burning! Your cloudy seconds,
take them—, devour
the bright poison of these bites—after you
have mummified yourself
in the sarcophagus of forgetting …
translated from the German by Marc Vincenz
Alexander Xaver Gwerder was born in 1923 to a Swiss working-class family and began writing poems when he was sixteen years old. In 1949, a few of Alexander’s poems were published in the Zurich newspaper, Die Tat. His talents were recognized by a handful of Swiss editors.Gwerder committed suicide in Arles, France in 14. September 1952.
Most of Gwerder’s work was published posthumously. He was clearly influenced by Gottfried Benn and Rainer Maria Rilke. Gwerder’s poems are highly imagistic, written in a rhythmical language and infused with the Swiss dialect of his childhood. Gwerder was highly critical of the bourgeoisie and the conservative institutions of Swiss government and the military. During his lifetime he was a complete outsider to the Swiss literary establishment and little-acknowledged for his poignant and stirring visions. It was only 45 years after his tragic death that Gwerder’s collected and uncollected poems were released in German, and his extraordinary talent finally brought to critical attention.