Two Poems

Michael Hofmann

Austria

Seventeen languages under the thumb of one,
and that not even German. The Habsburgs.
The blind, glassy double-windows are flytraps.
Their yellow barracks – justice, education, government –
smelling of floor-polish and disinfectant ...
An empire ruled from a set of converted barns.

Monsters of the Deep

We could never understand how it worked:
their relationship was unfathomable.
We told each other Ovidian tales
of blackmail and sinister domination.
Our curiosity was a small boat,
which stopped at a plotted latitude
and dropped anchor, while we projected
ourselves over the side in dry-suits
and bathyspheres, with torches and harpoons,
leaden-footed frogmen of the imagination.