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Hymn to the Wild East

(A Gentleman's Field Trip)

by Matthias Politycki

translated from the German by Elizabeth Oehlkers Wright

Red was the bar phone
and red, of course, were the tongues
recklessly tendering themselves towards us
: two-hundred-dollar tongues, man, in a couple of genuine fresh
      two-hundred-dollar creatures, the ones with buckets
      of bare midriff pierced charm
      and other things
      you might expect at this price—
      two-hundred-dollar miracles, who by no means
      want insight into
      the ones their aslant mascaraed eyes
      have to look at:

three German non-stop talkers, how by the third night
the three of us in the hotel bar, table to table with them,
ossified—that is, without them, the ones
who could not grasp what they
would have to grasp: that a perfectly stacked
two-hundred-dollar thing doesn’t seem half as good
for the taking as a
conversation about one.

We are, without question, resoundingly sorry.
We grab in hasty exchange
wo hundred gentlemen’s points from our throats,
obstinate transitive drinking prose concerning
certain details, and most of all, concerning
the uncertain:

Man oh man! Kiev for instance
is one fancy ass city,
they have the perfect women
with the perfect tongues
at the perfect crack of dawn,
the two-hundred-dollar offer
of the hour: you take one look
and all hell breaks loose

Red was the bar phone
and red, probably, were our all-around
swollen heads: red, rusted, full
of the befuddlingest Vodka wisdom. But when
we had to fly back home
with sore throats and ears, into which
no more words would go, at least we knew
there are still some cities where you have something
: to talk about.


Matthias Politycki (b. 1955) is a sharp and witty essayist, poet, and novelist. His books include Im Schatten der Schrift hier (In the Shadow of the Writing Here, Weismann, 1988) and Jenseits von Wurst und Käse (Beyond Sausage and Cheese, Luchterhand Literaturverlag, 1995). He lives in Hamburg and Munich.

Elizabeth Oehlkers Wright is a literary translator who lives in Waltham, Mass. She spent a year in Berlin translating work by non-native German authors, and her translations of the German-Turkish poets Zafer Senocak and Zehra Çirak have appeared in Another Chicago Magazine, Delos, and Dimension2. She recently translated Ernst Peter Fischer’s Beauty and the Beast: The Aesthetic Moment in Science. She works as a German-language financial typesetter. (2000)


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