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A poem for Anselm Kiefer

Published 13 November 2014

A new poem by George Szirtes, written in response to our Anselm Kiefer exhibition.

  • From the Winter 2014 issue of RA Magazine, issued quarterly to Friends of the RA.

    Minimenta: Topography for Anselm Kiefer

    The topography of ruins. One wave
    of grass covers everything. I have seen
    a woman bending over a stone.
    Everything around her was green.

    The desire is to leave everything alone.
    The difficulty is knowing what to save.

    I am a wreck, says one, but not
    with his mouth. Where are his organs
    of speech? They’ve been wrecked
    by the huge wind that blows, now hot
    now cold. Too late to protect
    a body fraying at the margins.

    The smallest things move me. The rain
    as it shakes the leaf. The sound of laughter
    in the street. I’m easy to please.
    Give me fine particulars, he says,
    the microfiction of pleasure. A train
    passing. The silence after.

    Somewhere within his chest
    a crow was croaking. Somewhere not far
    from him bodies were decomposing.
    Everything in the world was for the best.
    Outside leaves lifted. The sky was closing
    round a tree on a distant star.

    The terrain of grief does not grow any smaller.
    The bush fires spread. The dead keep interrupting.
    A crowd shouting in the park meets a crowd
    shouting in the street. Shouting turns to shooting.
    Turn off the film. The soundtrack is too loud.
    We don’t need sound. We don’t need technicolour.

    But here is colour: hands, eyes and lips,
    magnified as if for real, then vanishing
    into the sinkholes that punctuate
    the landscape.
            I don’t say anything,
    says the mouth. You are too late,
    say the eyes, hands, and fingertips.

    You build ruins we can live in.
    You hide our bones in concrete.
    The bomb shelter is inside the bomb.

    Here is the car we arrive in.
    Here is what remains of the street.
    Here it all stops. Welcome home.

    Anselm Kiefer is in the Main Galleries until 14 December 2014

    George Szirtes is a poet and translator. His collection Bad Machine (Bloodaxe, 2013) includes a series of poems in response to the art of Anselm Kiefer.

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