Quintessential Munich – five poems

Quintessential Munich
Five poems


To proceed along the endless lanes,
Swoop Underground, soaring past churches, yards,
And subterranean rivers, in search of patient relics.
Go and walk about Odeonsplatz, among the foreign gazes
Of the friendly populace.

Wasted, pierced with many holes
The legends on the walls
Seen mirrored in the silent Isar
Mingled with the roaring of cars and buses.

“Do not take the staircase to the green
If you want to see the church
You can simply take the elevator.”

Go and walk along the runlet in the sun
It will lead you to the temple that you seek,
Staring at the dim green domes
From a hilltop not afar,
Behind the soaring vastness
Of the long and empty lanes.

II (Friedensengel – Angel of Peace)

beachte die Lieblingsausdrücke des Gottes!

When seen in gold and enamel they seem
Just flat against the walls,
Of the lofty octagon.

Order shapes the pacing forms
Which take on that earthly aspect
When slowly they dissolve
With every piece of glass that falls.

And great white cars are moving fast,
Below the Friedensengel, past
The sulky stupor of its countenance

III (Beerdigung – Funeral)

They now have played the silent game,
On the river Isar in her precious shadow moving,
The barque is floating silently away.

No Island, cave nor temple,
No mourning-birds await it in its flow.
While the town is pleading for its course,
From bridge to bridge.

Past palaces and regal gates,
Through solemn shadows, barely visible
Quietly the stately vessel floats.

IV (Messe – Mass)

Patrem Omnipotentem
Factorem coeli et terrae
Visibilium et Invisibilium

Deum de Deo
Lumen de Lumine,
And in black clothing proceedeth,
Back and forth the nave,
The icy ways of stone and linen,
In the hope of the resurrection of the dead.

Waxen torches are bending with the draught
From cracks and shattered windows.

Et expecto resurrectionem mortuorum


Some foes of the classical
Leap from one bridge to another
Trying to gather that, longing for a temple,
Gazing at the silent domes
That hover majestically above the river

Where arms were being packed for shipment
– Hats and canes tread unwaringly –
The Angel of Peace and four golden mosaics
– Hats and portraits being very near –

Monstrosities and skeletons
Pacing with leisure among the flowerbeds of Nymphenburg
Embedded in a silent row of domes, towards the temple-top.

About the history of the poem

It appears that, long ago, I had poetical aspirations. And these aspirations happened to coincide with the ambitions of a group of freshly graduated academics of Leiden University to create a new literary magazine, ‘Noord’ (which means … North).

One of these academics was my good friend Raymond whom I met some years earlier while following a dreadful lecture cycle on art patronage. The group of dynamic and idealistic lovers of literature and graphic arts were his friends. They surprised me, because they managed to organize themselves very quickly. In fact, with very little means and tons of energy they surprized everyone by creating a lovely printed literary-artistic magazine.

Noord has know 6 issues.

Noord never made history, but there are still traces. With some quick searching I was able to find one issue (#6) that is now sold by an antiquarian book dealer for the sum of 77 Euro, and a mention in the Rijksmuseum Research Library.

I contributed to the first, second and fourth issue, with a poem and 3 short stories. Re-reading these youthful flirtations with literature gets my toes curled, especially the sheer number of uncorrected typos.

Still … looking back, it was fun and exciting. My first submissions were written by hand or on a shabby typewriter. After the first issue I used my friend’s first computer. It came with a text editor that produced one endless line of text.

There was a lot of excited, uplifting, and semi-revolutionary talk, mainly by the people who had a background in language studies. The ‘establishment’ was bound to be overthrown. Being a relative outsider with a background in philosophy and art history, I had no clue which establishment they meant. I only had a few stories and a poem to share.

The poem itself is like a plowed field in which a farmer has inadvertently ravaged the remains of a buried civilization. Potsherds, fragments of sculptures and writings, remains of people, buildings, events … all lie strewn in the tilled soil.

For me it’s like a strange form of personal archaeology. Mainly broken pottery, no metal-detector required. I recognize poets I admired, paintings I liked, sculptures I saw, magazines and newspapers I read, music I listened to and a city I visited, there even is a reference to the presocratic philosophers.

Is the poem any good? No, probably not. But once it has acquired the patina of the antiquarian, does that really matter?


Some haikus inspired by images


I am a hero
valiantly resisting
the cold snow outside


a finch on a stick
meditating patiently
comparing snowflakes


vast is the forest
elusive the animals
new binoculars


memories lost forever
death of a fungus


guarding the forest
a footsoldier staying put
the bravest mushroom

More haikus


bluish moonlit snow
if it was not for the cold
you could read a book


on the precious scroll
a meaningless metaphor
has killed the haiku


patterns of black ink
will paint the lightest of worlds
power of the mind


a bunsen burner
on a summer afternoon
ah! Nostalgia.


heavenly bodies beckon
largely unnoticed


below the surface
of the frog-filled pond in june
a goldfish sneezes


autumn afternoon
teacups crowned with rising steam
better go inside


rays of warm sunlight
green linen fading slowly
a bookstore in june