Dedicated to Ludwig von Ficker
Often by the well at dusk,
You see her standing spellbound
Drawing water at dusk.
Buckets plunge up and down.
In the beeches jackdaws flutter
And she is like a shadow.
Her yellow hair flutters
And rats scream in the yard.
And coaxed by abasement
She narrows her inflamed eyelids.
Parched grass in abasement
Kneels at her feet.
She works to herself in the cell
And the yard lies long deserted.
In the elderberry before her cell
A blackbird trills piteously.
Her image peers at her in the mirror
Strange, silver in the twilight-glow
And then pales to nothing in the mirror
And she shudders before its purity.
Dreaming a stablehand sings in the dark
And she stares shaken with pain.
Red trickles down through the dark.
Suddenly the south wind rattles the gate.
At night above the barren meadow
She sways in feverish dreams.
A wind whines morosely across the meadow
And the moon eavesdrops from the trees.
Soon all around the stars grow pale
And weakened by her protests
Her cheeks turn waxen and pale.
Foulness rises from the earth.
The grieving reeds rustle in the pond
And crouched together she freezes.
Far away a cock cries. Across the pond
Morning shivers hard and gray.
In the forge pounds a hammer
And she slips past the gate.
Red-hot the stablehand swings his hammer
And as though dead she glances over.
As in a dream she’s met by laughter;
And she staggers into the forge,
Cringing at his laughter,
Like the hammer hard and coarse.
Through the room spray blazing sparks
And with helpless gestures
She chases after the wild sparks
And falls overcome to the ground.
Stretched out frail upon the bed
She wakes full of sweet terror
And she sees her filthy bed
In a great cloud of golden light,
The mignonettes there at the window
And the blue bright sky.
Sometimes the wind carries to the window
The timid ringing of a bell.
Shadows glide across the pillow,
The noon hour strikes slowly
And she breathes hard upon the pillow
And her mouth is like a wound.
At evening drift bloody linens,
Clouds over silent forests
That are draped in black linens.
Sparrows clamor in the fields.
And she lies utterly white in the dark.
Beneath the eaves a cooing fades.
Like a carrion in the underbush and dark
Flies buzz around her mouth.
Dreamlike, a sound in the brown village
An echo of dancing and violins,
Her face floats through the village,
Her hair catches in the bare branches.