Eric Hoffman

Ten Translations of Georg Trakl


Under trimmed willows, brown children play
And leaves rustle, trumpets intone. Cemeteries tremble.
Scarlet banners reverberate through sycamore’s grief,
Horsemen along rye fields, empty mills.

Or shepherds sing at night and stags step
Into the circle of fire, the groves’ primitive sadness,
Dancers arise from a black wall,
Scarlet banners, laughter, insanity, trumpets.

De Profundis

It is a stubble field where a black rain falls.
It is a brown tree that stands alone.
It is a hissing wind encircling empty houses –
How tragic is this evening.

Outside town
A gentle orphan gathers meager husks.
Her eyes, wide and golden, eat the dusk;
Her womb awaits the heavenly bridegroom.

Returning home,
Shepherds find the sweet corpse
Decaying in a thicket.

I am a shadow far from darkened villages.
I drink God’s wordlessness
From a woodland well.

Cold metal forms on my forehead,
Spiders search for my heart.
In my mouth, a light is extinguished.

At night, I find myself in a field
Thick with filth and the dust of stars.
In a hazel thicket
Crystal angels sing again.


Depravity drifts through the disintegrating room,
Shadows on yellow draperies; in dark mirrors
The ivory sorrow of our hands refract.

Brown pearls drip through dead fingers.
Without words,
An angel’s opium-blue eyes unclose.

And so the evening is blue;
The time of our dying; Azrael’s shadow
Darkening a brown garden.

     to Karl Borromäus Heinrich

Over the white pond
The wild birds have flown away.
At evening an icy wind blows from our stars.

Over our graves
The broken bow of night descends.
Beneath oak trees we sway in a silver boat.

The white walls of the city ring forever.
Under arches of thorns,
O my brother, we blind hands of clocks climb towards midnight.


At evening, the song of the cuckoo
Grows silent in the forest.
The grain bows its head lower,
The red poppy.

Dark thunderclouds rise
Over the hill.
The cricket’s ancient song
Dies in the field.

The leaves of the chestnut tree
Cease stirring.
Your dress rustles
On the spiral stair.

A candle gleams wordlessly
In the dark room;
A silver hand
Extinguishes the light;

Windless, starless night.

To the Child Elis

Elis, when the blackbirds call from the black wood,
This is your perdition.
Your lips drink the cool of the blue rockspring.

Let go, when your brow bleeds wordlessly,
Ancient legends
And dark interpretations of bird flight.

You walk with soft footsteps into night
Filled with purple grapes.
You move your arms more beautifully in the blue.

A thorn bush sings
Where are your lunar eyes.
O, how long, Elis, have you been dead.

Your body is a hyacinth
Into which a monk dips his waxen fingers.
Our silence is a black cavern

From which a gentle animal sometimes appears,
And slowly lowers its heavy eyelids.
Upon your temples black dew drips.

The final gold of fallen stars.



Perfection is the stillness of this golden day.
Under ancient oaks
You, Elis, appear, reclining with round eyes.

Their blue reflects the slumber of lovers.
On your mouth
Their rosy sighs are stilled.

At evening, the fisherman hauls in his heavy nets.
A good shepherd
Leads his flock along the forest’s edge.
O how righteous, Elis, are all your days.

The olive trees’ blue stillness
Quietly descends on naked walls,
An old man’s dark song dies away.

A golden boat sways,
Elis, your heart against a lonely sky.


A gentle chime of bells rings in Elis’ breast.
At evening
When his head sinks into a black pillow

A blue deer
Bleeds quietly in a thicket of thorns.

A brown tree stands there in solitude,
Its blue fruit fallen away.

Signs and stars
Sink, speechlessly vanish in the evening pond.

Behind the hill, winter has come.

At night
Blue doves drink the icy sweat
That flows from Elis’ crystal brow.

On black walls
Forever drones the lonely wind of God.


Full of fruit, an elderbush; childhood dwelt tranquil
In a blue cave. Over the bygone path
Where now the brown wildgrass sways,
Wordless branches ponder; the rustling leaves

Alike, as when blue water thunders under the crags.
The blackbird’s lament is gentle. A shepherd
Speechlessly follows the sun that rolls down the autumnal hill.

A blue moment is pure soul.
At the forest’s edge, a timid deer appears and peacefully
Old bells and somber hamlets rest in the valley.

Now devout, you know the purpose of dark years,
Coolness and autumn in empty rooms;
And shining footsteps sound out in holy blue.

Quietly an open window clatters; the sight
Of the neglected cemetery moves you to tears.
Recollections of ancient legends; yet the soul sometimes brightens
When it thinks of joyful people, the dark-gold days of spring.

Rest and Silence

Shepherds bury the sun in the skeletal forest.
With a net of hair
A fisherman hauls the moon from a frozen pond.

The pale moon dwells
In blue crystal, his face at rest among the stars.
Or he lowers his head in purple sleep

Yet the black flight of birds forever touches the watcher,
The fervor of blue flowers,
The local stillness ponders the forgotten, extinct angels.

Nightfall again envelops the brow among moonlit stones;
A radiant youth,
The sister appears in autumn and black decay.

Springtime of the Soul

Crying out in sleep, wind whips through the black alleys.
Blue spring beckons through the breaking boughs,
Purple night dew, and throughout the sky the stars extinguish.
Green river dawns, silver the old avenues
And the towers of the city. O gentle drunkenness
In the gliding boat, dark calls of the blackbird
In childlike gardens. The rose-red veil disperses.

The water murmurs solemnly. O the moist shadows on the meadow,
The striding animals; greenery, the blossoming branches
Touch the crystalline brow; shimmering rocking boat.
Wordlessly the sun sings in the rose-red mists on the hill.
Great is the stillness of the pine forest, the river’s grave shadows.

Purity! Purity! Where are the terrible paths of death,
Of gray stony silence, the rocks of night
And the unquiet shadows? Radiant abyss of sunlight.

Sister, when I found you at noon
In the forest’s lonely clearing, in the great silence of animals,
White under wild oak, the thorns flowered silver.
Massive death, and the singing flame in the heart.

Darker the waters flowed around the fish gracefully playing.
Hour of mourning, and the speechless gaze of the sun;
The soul is alien to earth. Ghostly twilight dims
Blue over the broken forest, and in the village
A bell tolls dark and long; they lead him to rest.
Silent the myrtle flowers of the white eyelids of the dead.

Quietly the water whispers in the afternoon’s decline,
On the riverbank the green wilderness darkens, ecstasy in the rose-red wind,
The brother’s quiet song by the evening hill.

Eric Hoffman is the author of Oppen: A Narrative, a biography of poet George Oppen, originally published in 2013 by Shearsman. A corrected and expanded edition is forthcoming from Spuyten Duyvil in 2017. He is the author of several collections of poetry, including The American Eye (2011), By the Hours (2013), and Forms of Life (2015), all published by Dos Madres Press, and The Transparent Eye (2016), and a new collection of poems, Losses of Life, both published by Spuyten Duyvil. He is co-editor of the University Press of Mississippi's Conversations with Comic Artists volumes Dave Sim: Conversations (2013), Chester Brown: Conversations (2013), Seth: Conversations (2015), and Jim Shooter: Conversations (2017), and Approaching Twin Peaks: Essays on the Original Series (McFarland, 2017). Additional forthcoming works are Tearing the World Apart: Bob Dylan and the 21st Century, The Canadian Alternative: Cartoonists, Comics, and Graphic Novels (both University Press of Mississippi, 2017) and Steve Gerber: Conversations.
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