Poems

Labor Day

Friday, September 9th, 2016

A holiday to celebrate
The end of holiday.
I sit cross legged in the closet
Trying to subdue thoughts
that tumble like laundry.
A work in progress
Thirty minutes, every morning,
Forty years.
Or is it only labor
Watching the clock?
I face the closed door
Of an antique washstand
That holds the ashes
Of two who made me.
Creation or endurance
Their lives and mine,
Headed for now
Or never?

Birthday Present

Saturday, July 25th, 2015

It ain’t necessarily so
It ain’t necessarily so
The things that you’re liable
To read in the Bible,
It ain’t necessarily so.

The psalmist says three score and ten
Is the year that it’s when to say when
But some disagree
And say age seventy
Is just time to start over again

It ain’t necessarily so
It ain’t necessarily so
Our days may be numbered
But we’re not encumbered
With twenty four hours to go

So here’s a small something for you
To keep track of them in all you do
La Grande classique they call it
Cause it’s classy and above all it
Grows old and yet always stays new

from The Magic Flute

Sunday, September 1st, 2013

Mann und Weib
Und Weib und Mann
Reichen an
die Gottheit an.

(Wife and husband
husband wife
together reach
for godly life.)

 

 

 

 

Reminders of the “Good Old Days”

Tuesday, April 9th, 2013

[Updated June 30 2013]

gute alte zeit_2.jpg

Soon after their move to San Luis Obispo in 1989, my parents, Lise and Henry Marx, presented Jan and me with a gift they’d been working on for several years: a collection of German proverbs they had learned from their parents and grandparents.

I remember continually hearing these sayings from my earliest childhood until their final days. Each time one was uttered there was a moment of satisfaction—the speaker pleased to have found a way to make familiar sense out of some new experience and the hearer gratified to grasp the connection.  Growing up as a first generation American, I reacted to these old-world pieties with boredom and embarrassment.

By the time Jan and I and our children had finally settled and bought a house in our middle forties and Lise and Henry had reached their middle eighties, we all welcomed the opportunity to live in close proximity.  As a partially reformed rebel and parent of teenagers I was also ready to join Jan in affirming the value of family and cultural heritage.  That combined with the fact that we both spoke German allowed us to appreciate the wry wit and wisdom of the old folks’ oft-repeated slogans.  But it was a great surprise when they gave us a notebook with their own collection of over two hundred family aphorisms as a “Weinukah” or Chrisnukah present.  Some were as familiar as the furniture in their living room but many others I discovered for the first time.

The book has resided inside a little shrine holding their pictures and ashes. Now we converse through translation.

gute alte zeit.jpg

Gluecklich ist
Wer vergisst
Was nicht mehr
Zu aendern ist
Happy is he
Who doesn’t see
What no longer
Changed can be
Eine Schwalbe macht noch keinen Sommer One swallow doesn’t make it Summer
Stille Wasser gruenden tief Still waters run deep
Das schlag dir aus dem Kopf Just smack that out of your head
Das beruehren der Figueren
Mit den Pfoten ist verboten
Keep your grimy paws away
From the figure on display
Zu lieben und geliebt zu werden
Das ist das groesste Glueck auf Erden
To love someone and be loved in return
There’s found the happiness for which we yearn
Einem boesen Hund gibt man zwei knochen The nasty dog gets two bones
Der Gescheitere gibt nach The wiser one gives way
Ohne Fleiss kein Preis No pain no gain
Eile mit Weile Haste makes waste
Nach uns die Sintflut After us the deluge
Nur net brumme
S’wird scho’kumme
No use to gripe
When your time’s ripe
Spare in der Zeit
So hast du in der Not
Put by in time
Don’t cry in need
Wer nicht hoeren will muss fuelen If you wont hear, you’ll have to feel
Vorsicht is besser wie Nachsicht Careful’s better than full of care
Kleine Kinder kleine Sorgen
Grosse Kinder grosse Sorgen
Little children little cares
Grown up children grown up cares
Ich habe meine Kinder das Reden gelehrt
Und sie haben mich das Schweigen gelehrt
I taught my children to speak
And they taught me to keep quiet
Uebung macht den Meister Practice makes perfect
Wer arbeit Kennt und sicht nicht drueckt
Der ist verrueckt
Whoever knows work and doesn’t run
‘s a crazy one
Wie gesagt so getan No sooner said than done
Es ist auf den Hund gekommen It’s gone to the dogs
Ein Verhaengnis kommt selten allein A disaster rarely arrives alone
Wes’ das Herz voll ist
des’ laeuft der Mind ueber
One whose heart’s full
Runs over at the mouth
Vater werden ist nicht schwer
Vater sein dagegen mehr
To become a father isn’t hard
But to be a father isn’t easy
So was sagt man nicht
So was tut man blos
That’s something we would never say
We’d just do it anyway
Gute Goeckel werde’ net fett Good cocks don’t get fat
S’isch dumm gange’ It went all cockeyed
Und wenn Dich schon der Erste hat
dann hat Dich bald die ganze Stadt
Once the first guy has his way
soon the whole town gets to play
Tue Recht und scheue niemand Do right and let no one know
Wenn das Woertchen “Wenn” nicht waer
dann waer mein Vater Millionaer
If the word “if” wasn’t there
My father’d be a millionaire
Alter schuetzt vor Torheit nicht Age wont guard against folly
Lerne leiden ohne zu klagen Learn to suffer silently
Die Liebe des Mannes geht durch den Magen The way to the man’s love is through his stomach
Zur liebe kann man niemand zwingen No one can be forced to love
Der Weg sur Hoelle is mit guten Vorsaetzen gepflastert The way to hell is paved with good intentions
Schoenheit vergeht
Weisheit besteht
Beauty subsides
Wisdom abides
Es wird nicht so heiss gegessen wie es gekocht wird It wont be as hot eaten as cooking
Das Leben ist ‘ne Huehnerleiter
man kommt vor lauter Dreck nicht weiter
Life is just a henhouse ladder
You cant surmount the fecal matter
Voegel die am Morgen singen
Holt am Abend die Katze
Birds that sing in the morning
Attract the cat at night
Es ist dafuer gesorgt dass die Baueme nicht in den Himmel wachsen It’s been arranged that the trees don’t grow into the heavens
Man soll den Tag nicht vor dem Abend loben Dont praise the day before it’s over
Reden ist Silber
Schweigen ist Gold
Speech is silver
Silence is gold
Spinne am Abend erquickened und labend
Spinne am Morgen bringt Kummer und Sorgen
A spider in the night brings joy and delight
A spider on the morrow brings trouble and sorrow
Wer nichts wagt gewinnt nichts Nothing ventured nothing gained (more…)