Two Poems

Michael Hofmann

Ebenböckstrasse

for my mother

A plaster – piece of sticking plaster – on the wall
Where the doorknob of the cold-water bathroom door might hit.
Has hit. A bruise in the other kind of plaster, a dent.
Mend and make do. Guest bathroom, if you will.

It never gets any better; just an embarrassing display of solicitude.
A naked concern with wear, like mylar or antimacassar.
The basin still too small for one hand to wash the other.
A crust of soap. No one’s died, at least not recently.

One playpen in the living room, penal, receiving.
Obsolescent photographs of grandchildren.
Small sticky fingerprints. An actual cobweb in my cobwebby hair.
Knick-knacks no one understands trembling for their lives.

Lake Isle

Get me a place on Danube Street, I want to live
on Danube Street, or if not there, then Ann would do almost as well,
between the padlocked private gardens (no dogs no ball games)
and the barranca, the sanction and the delimited amenity.

Mindless wood-pigeons bleat like unanswered telephones.
Nothing so douce as sandstone in a granite town,
a town monstered by gulls and sunspots and unkempt dogs,
softened in any case from when I lived here fifty years ago,

when, taking my life in my hands,
I walked to school to save a few shillings bus fare,
beside a Styrofoam stream past drinks cans and jobbies and the occasional
murdered foreign student, but not too many.

Where the walls are scarred with YMD (for Young Mental Drylaw),
and the streets on Fridays are blustery with witty drunks,
and beautiful grant-maintained schoolgirls
tuck into beastly food with savage appetites.

I want to have wooden shutters and specimen plants,
Georgian casements (the only artefact I’d countenance from two millennia),
and ten fine days a year, fossicking at home in a cardigan
while my fellow-professionals are all at work.

I want to take my place as a nationally – make that notionally –
known professor, among investment advisers and plastic surgeons,
where there are always builders making improvements or repairs,
and the cobbles play merry hell with the bottles on the milk floats.