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These poems are from

A Reader for City-Dwellers

Brecht's first volume of poems, (unpublished) of1926. They reflect Brecht's early experience in Berlin.


Other poems of this period include T.S. Eliot's The Wasteland  (1922)

Metropolis by George Grosz (1893-1959)

Click on first line of poem for German original


Split off from your pals at the train station

Go into the city with your jacket buttoned up
Look for a place to stay, and when your pal knocks
Do not, o do not open the door
You'd better
Cover your tracks!

If you walk by your parents in the city of Hamburg
Or some place
Go past them as if they were strangers, take a corner, don’t recognize them
Pull that hat they gave you down over your face
Do not, o do not show your face
You'd better
Cover your tracks!
Eat the meat that is on the table. Don’t save.
Walk into any house when it is raining, and sit down on
Any chair that’s there
But don’t stay seated. And don’t forget your hat!
I’m telling you:
Cover your tracks!

What ever you say, don’t say it twice.
If you find a friend who spouts some idea of yours, deny it.
If you haven’t signed anything, and there’s no picture of you
If you weren’t at the scene, if you didn’t say anything,
They can’t get you!
Cover your tracks!

Watch out, when you die
That there is no tombstone to reveal where you lie
With clear writing that discloses you
And the year of your death to give you away!
One more time:
Cover your tracks!

(This was told to me.)






Click on poem titles for German originals!


Forget your dreams...


Forget your dreams of being
Some sort of exception.
What your mother told you
Wasn't necessarily so.

Forget that contract in your pocket
For all the good it does you here.

Forget your hopes of being
Elected some sort of president.
You'd better shape up quick
If you expect to stay here in the kitchen.
You'll have to learn the basics,
The basics being: We will fix your wagon.

Forget whatever it is you have to say.
No one is even interested
The place is full of hungry customers
What we need here is hamburger.

And, hey, don't get discouraged,
And have a nice day!




split off

Click on poem titles for German originals!

To Chronos

We don't want to leave your house
We don't want to smash the kitchen stove
We want to cook a meal on the kitchen stove
The house, the oven and the pot can stay
And you can go up the chimney like smoke to the sky
That no one can hold back..
If you want to hold on to us, we will leave
If your wife is in tears, we'll pull our hats down over our faces
But when they come to get you, we'll point to you
And say, yeah, that's him alright.

We don't know what's coming, and have nothing better
But we know for sure we don't want you.
Before you haven't gone yet,
Let's cover the windows, so that the morning doesn't come.

It is alright for cities to change
But not alright for you to change.
We'll talk to the concrete of the city,
But it's you we'd like to kill.
You don't have to be among the living.
Whatever we have to believe by way of lies,
It was not alright for you to have existed.

(This is the way we speak to our fathers.)



To Chronos

Click on first line for German original!



I know that I'm dirt. All I'm good for
Is weakness, betrayal and depravity.
But one day I noticed that
Things were going better, that there was
Wind in my sails, my time had come. I could be
Something better than dirt.
So I got going right away.

Because I was dirt. I noticed
That when I was drunk, I'd just lay down
And didn't know who was just using me.
So now I don't drink anymore
I quit right away.

Unfortunately, I had to do lots of things
That were harmful, purely to stay alive,
Like eat enough poison to kill a horse,
But I had to do that to stay alive.
I took cocaine until I looked like a bed sheet with no bones.
But then I looked at myself in the mirror,
And I quit doing it right away.

Of course they tried to infect me with syphilis
But it didn't work. So they poisoned me with arsenic.
I had tubes coming out of my body pouring pus for days.
Who would have thought that someone like that
Would ever drive men crazy again.
I started in right away.

I didn't get involved with any guys
Who didn't contribute, and made a point of
Getting with every guy I really needed.
I almost can't feel anything any more, I'm not even moist.
I fill myself up, things go up and down,
But all in all things are getting better.

There is a woman I hate, and I noticed that I still
Call her an old pig, and I know I hate her because
Men still look at her.
So in a year's time,
I quit doing that.

I'm dirt, but things are lining up in my favor,.
Come on up, you can't avoid me, and can't do without me,  
It's the sex of tomorrow, getting better than just dirt,
Soon to become the hard cement of which cities are built.

(This is what I heard a woman say.)

I'm dirt



Click first line for German original



If I talk with you
In a cold and common way
In the driest of words
Without regarding you
(Not seeming to recognize you
In your particular inward nature and personal dilemma)

I am merely speaking
The way reality itself does
(Sober reality, uncorrupted by your particular nature,
Sick of your dilemma)
That it seems to me you do not recognize.

talk with you


Click title for German original

The Fifth Wheel

We have arrived at the moment, where you know
That you are the fifth wheel on the wagon
And your hope is draining away.
But we don't know
That as of yet.

We notice
Your urgency in conversation
Looking for a word, that will
Let you get away
Because what you intend
Is not to cause a stir.

You get up in the middle of a sentence
You say angrily, that you want to go
We say, stay, and we notice
That you are the fifth wheel.
And then you sit down.
So what happens is that you stay seated
At the moment when we recognized
That you are the fifth wheel.
But you
No longer recognize that fact.

Let us tell you flat out. You are
The fifth wheel
Do not think, that I, who am telling you this
Am a scoundrel
Do not go grabbing for that hatchet, but do get
Yourself a glass of water

I know, you can't hear me any longer
Do not go exclaiming that the world is bad
Say it softly.

Because it is not the four wheels that are too many
But the fifth wheel that is,
And the world is not bad,
It is simply
Full up to capacity.

(You have heard this all before.)




5th wheel
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