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This poem is taken from Poetry Nation 2 Number 2, 1974.

Five Poems (translated from the German by Michael Hamburger) Daniel Weissbort


Why, my dear friend, were you being executed?
We knew the executioner, but all the same, who was he?
Why was I there? And in that last respite,
before the coup de grâce,
what did we speak of?
I have forgotten.

He tried to get you used to it - the roar,
the rush of air, the burning powder,
with demonstration shots, angled to pass
closer and closer. And you sat
at the table, inattentive, absent.
And in between his efforts to familiarise you with
the manner of your death, we chatted
fitfully, casually as ever
(as though I had been detailed somehow to distract you);

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