Thursday, 9 October 2014

CULINARY ROME A poem by Ludwig Steinherr


I know of a Trattoria
tucked away in a side alley in Trastevere
He who orders early enough
can get a delicacy there:
from the deepest freezers
preserved for centuries
the brain of a Renaissance prince
sautéed in butter and sage…
Connoisseurs do not pair it with a wine
The flavor, simply enjoyed,
is different than anything they have ever
tasted in their appetent dreams …
The unsophisticated palate
is initially overwhelmed by the hints of decay
but then
the roof rips away at the copula,
fountains of light shoot upwards
as if out of carotid arteries
and spatter the walls,
nymphs at the springs enlace holiness,
fauns trample porcelain plates with filthy hooves,
fireworks flicker down and Danae spreads her thighs.
Indulge yourself! Savor each metamorphosis!
Your tongue will successively turn into
a boar, a rhinoceros, a panther, a peacock;
extend every second into an eternity!
Rub pepper in your eyes
to stay awake!
Jab forks into your arm
to experience each additional nuance of desire!

The following night—believe me—
is going to be one hell of a ride.

translated by Paul-Henri Campbell


Ludwig Steinherr, a fellow guest at Druskinikai, is a well-known, prize-winning German poet. A selection of his poems translated into English,  Before the Invention of Paradise, was published by Arc. This poem is from a later collection and is wilder, more Dionysian than much of his earlier work. Fantastical and ecstatic, it is concerned as much with cruelty as with pleasure. Beginning with a visit to a simple trattoria the poem expands first into history, then into the flavour of a historical moment that proves shockingly transformative. By touching as much on the explosive as the ecstatic, the view of the past affords a prophetic glance into a possible future where indulgence is the first step to destruction.

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