The Naked Machine


Selected poetry by Matthías Johannessen. Marshall Brement translated to English. With illustrations by Manfred Fischer.

The City Laughed

Do you remembe, standing by the lake
looked into your face
the sky reflected in your eyes
deep and thirsty like the laughter of the girl
who came to you with white teeth
like a tern diving for stickleback.
Then night came
and the last wave carried
your shadow ashore
and a new day broke.

Do you remember, the city talking with you
understanding the street laughter
the happiness of people dancing
to the screaming bassoons, the off-key violins
which stretched into your soul
like the thin fingers
of the young girl at the bar:
you laughed, sang,
but did not see, when darkness sneaked into your faces
and the night moved with soft hands
along fire-red lips.

And the city laughed in your hearts.

Do you remember, an unknown woman coming into your house
and retrieving your youth, picking flowers from hot lips,
and giving you in return the laughter of a child
which filled your ears like surf by the blue cliffs
or the breeze in a green hollow.
You found out that none escapes the city
which he has inhaled
like the scent of a young woman
and before you knew it new eyes stared at you,
two hand met
two words -

and night kissed the dying autumn flower

Do you remember, youth bidding you farewell
and running lightly into the city,
standing there with empty eyes
and a shiny widow's-peak reminiscent of the journey
into an age and darkness:
night stroked a pale cheek
and a forehead, which once felt the flame from thirsty lips,
night passed a cold hand
through the leaves of the trees, and they fell
to the deep autumn-red soil,
and before anyone knew it lonely trees stood
along black asphalt streets,
old trees with naked, colourless brances
- cold, stiffened fingers
which pointed questioningly at those who passed by,

while the city laughed.