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Herr Wehner

Gottfried Benn, translated from the German by Michael Hofmann

This is mine
Herr Wehner
he was our house-tutor
died early of phthisis
once he’d infected my youngest brother
who died of meningitis tuberculosa.

Came from Lissa
son of a blacksmith
always went around in wooden clogs
which was unusual with us
Liska his bride
stayed with us over Whitsun once
daughter of a police major
ergo different class
the giggling in the evenings
when the mosquitoes buzzed
and it was our bedtime,
but, as I heard later,
it was a rocky marriage.

Herr Wehner,
what makes him mine
is the fact that he is buried somewhere
rotting away in a collective farm in (now) Poland
no one in the village
will remember him
but he sometimes appears to me
grey and isolated
under certain historical aspects.