Ernst Halter
translation by Marc Vincenz


In Another Condition

He becomes animal and doesn’t comprehend
what he sees, what he hears.
Is time ticking? Does Death play
on electric fiddles?
He also shrivels,
streaks in the eye,
a stone, a square,
a drum of bones and fur.

Frantic voices chirp above hills and valleys.
They stand head to head
and no one’s missing from the grand court.
He filters words out of the buzzing,
separates colors from numbers
and bone from bone.
He’s crone, he’s child.
He’s filled with dread, he has sense.
He recognizes his own face.

July 1996


On the Way to Vineta

There are days when
it’s enough work
to roll down from the peak of the mountain
into the leaden sea.
Bread explodes
in the starving man’s hands,
and guilty are those whom Death seeks out.

The time is coming when forests
will withdraw their roots from the earth,
sway in flight,
widen their branches,
and circle as flocks of birds in the sky’s ocean.

February 1994


Between One and Zero

Might I say:
if you add up this chart,
you’ll know me.
Statistically I’m here, without fraction;
the first whole number
defines my limits
as if God were its inventor,
between heart and skin
only one distance counts,
the radius of my name’s sphere,
I’m available in the decimal system—
the worry is thousand-fold,
remove the zeros,
and I have the courage to live:
I stand up and go ahead
into days without horrors and hope.

Scattered thoughts, heavy pulse—
love is the root of two,
and no one does the sum.
We are a cloud made of blood and lightning.

July 1994


From: Menschenland (© Wolfbach Verlag / Ernst Halter: 2010) by Ernst Halter
Translation © Marc Vincenz


Ernst Halter is a Swiss author and poet who lives in Althäusern, Switzerland. He has been publishing poetry, short stories and novels for over 40 years. Among his most important works are: Die Stimme des Atems (2003); Über Land (2007); and the novels, Das Buch Mara (1988) and Jahrhundertschnee (2009).

Marc Vincenz was born in Hong Kong to Swiss-British parents during the height of the Cultural Revolution. He divides his time between Iceland, Switzerland and NYC. His work has appeared in many journals, including Washington Square Review, The Bitter Oleander, Canary, Guernica, Fourteen Hills, Tears in the Fence, Exquisite Corpse, The Potomac, Spillway Review and Poetry Salzburg Review.

Recent books include: The Propaganda Factory, or Speaking of Trees (2011), Gods of a Ransacked Century (2013) and forthcoming with Neopoiesis Press, Mao's Mole (2013). His translations include Werner Lutz’ Kissing Nests (2012) and Ernst Halter’s Human Country (2013). An English-German bilingual collection of his poems Additional Breathing Exercises / Zusätzliche Atemübungen is soon to be released by Wolfbach, Zurich (2014).

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MadHat, Issue 14, Spring 2013