Pedro Lenz
translation by Donal McLaughlin


I don’t know what it is: at home, you seem to be someone;
later, though, among the folk in the street,
you seem pretty insignificant.

Juan Marsé


Factory Dancer

Therr wis a time
she wis still young
n ivrywan wantit
tae dance wi her.

Nooadays but
mair n mair often
she gits nowt but pain n grief.

Gone ur her dreams
thi stories
thi lang nights.

Thi assembly line’s still goin
goin n goin
nowt else is but.

Ivry noo n then jist
thi guy in thi storeroom gi’es it
D’ye mind the time -



Jist wance
in o’er nineteen year
did Toledo miss his wurk.

It wis thi day
the gaffer wis buried
in Volketswil.

He wantit tae be sure
thi cunt’s really deid, Toledo.


At Thi Vegetable Merkit

A boy’s wunnerin
while wi-oot blushin tellin
thi woman oan thi stall
she’s byewtifl
wull his wife back at thi hoose
think eight-eighty fur asparagus is
faur too much.

Thi woman oan thi stall
lets him talk jist.
Bein auld n hairmless.


Gittin Aulder

A big fat guy at times
spits yucky green gob
doon frae his balcony.

Ah knew him back
when he wis mair younger
n mair happier sumhoo.



Ah furgot tae ask:

Hiv ye still
a wee space fur me
in yir hairt
ur in yir bed
ur in yir diary?

Ur, if naw,
at least in thi dusty chamber
ae yir memry?



Thi wee boy o three wis like that
aboot thi auld man:
he’s dead auld awready
jist naw deid yet.

N noo frae time tae time ah wurry
he cid be like that aboot me:
ahm awready totally deid
jist naw auld yet.



This empty twitchin
aw o’er.
Ye’d jist love
tae rip a hairt
yir ain
ootae yir stomach.
It’s naw as if
ye’ve anywan else’s.



Unner nae circumstances
ah thought tae masel
shid ma shrood
be made ae nylon.

Itherwise doon through the years
it’ll stay aw-white n fresh
lang eftir thi rest ae me’s
lang since rottit n gone.


From: Die Welt ist ein Taschentuch (© Verlag X-Time, Berne: 2002) by Pedro Lenz
Translation © Donal McLaughlin


Pedro Lenz famous for his work in Swiss dialect, was shortlisted for the Swiss Book Prize in 2010 for his best-selling first novel Der Goalie bin ig. Donal McLaughlin’s dialect translation of this work – naw much of a talker – will be published by Freight Books (Glasgow) in 2013. A legend on the Swiss ‘Spoken Word’ scene, Pedro is a brilliant performer of his monologues and poems. He debuted in 2002 with the collection of poems Die Welt ist ein Taschentuch (‘The World is a Handkerchief’). Pedro maintains a website at

Donal McLaughlin Born in Derry in 1961, Donal McLaughlin has lived in Scotland since 1970. The author of an allergic reaction to national anthems & other stories, his second collection is forthcoming from Dalkey Archive early in 2014. Donal also translates from German. Known for his bilingual edition of the poetry of Stella Rotenberg (Shards) and his translations of over 100 German-Swiss writers for the New Swiss Writing anthologies, he also collaborated with Chris Dolan on a stage version of The Reader. He is the voice of Urs Widmer in English. Donal featured as both an author and a translator in Best European Fiction 2012 (Dalkey Archive). He maintains a website at

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MadHat, Issue 14, Spring 2013