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End Game


A few poems of Brecht's last years, still embroiled in battles with the Arts ministers of the GRD, involved with his own theater group, Beriner Ensemble and in many other projects, working hard while growing more and more ill.





Click on title for German original

If there was a wind
I could put up a sail.
If there were no sail
I would make one of sticks and tarps.

(1954) Setting sail is a classical metaphor

for writing verse

if a wind
difficult times

Click on title for German original

Difficult Times

Standing by my writing table
I see the elderberry bush in the garden through the window
And I recognize something red and something black there
And I recall suddenly the elderberries
Of my childhood in Augsburg.
For several minutes I deliberate
Very seriously, if I should go to the table
And get my eyeglasses to see once more
The black berries and the little red stems.



Click on title for German original

When I woke toward morning

When I awoke towards morning
In a white room in the Charité
And heard the singing of the ouzel,
I felt clear about what was really happening:
For a long time already, I had no fear
Of death. I knew I wouldn't miss anything,
Provided I myself were missing. At that moment
I succeeded in being happy about its song  
And all the ouzel-singing that would come after me.



in hospital

Click on title for German original



The  first look out of the window in the morning
An old book, found again
Enthusiastic faces
Snow, the change of seasons,
The newspaper
The dog
The dialectic
Showering, swimming
Old music
Comfortable shoes
Understanding something
New music,
Writing, planting
Traveling, singing
Being friendly.


(about 1954)


Click on title for German original


If we lived infinitely
If we lived infinitely
Everything would change
But since we are finite
Most things stay the same.


Click on title for German original

Love Song from a Bad Time

We were not on very close terms
But still we did sleep with each other.
As we held each other tight,
We really barely knew one another.

And if we met today at the market
We might haggle or get in a fight.
We were not on very close terms
When we held each other tight.  

(About 1954, for Isot Kilian)

love song bad time

Click on title for German original
The Way It Was  (1)

First I couldn't sleep for bliss
Then worry kept watch all night.
When both would wholly miss
I’d sleep. Then, alas, the sight
of all May-mornings turning to November-night.

The Way It Was  (2)

Your cares were my cares
My cares were yours alone.
If you brought no joy that day,
I myself had none to own.


(for Käthe Reichel)


the way it was

Click on title for German orginal
The Way Things Change


And I was old, and was young once as well
Was old at dawn and young at dusk
And was a child, with sorrows to tell
And an old man with his memories a husk


When I was young I was sad
Older now, sorrow is all the stronger
So, when for once  can I  be glad?
I'd best not wait much longer.


things change
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