the lady of the house speech-impaired
since an incomprehensible family fright
she lives there behind manorial bars
in a manorial castle
called neuschönbrunn by jealous relatives
right across the distrustfully barred
windows of the old man who opens them at most once
a day for a breath of air.
i don’t let anybody
knock the lady
the housekeeper says, thrown out only
yesterday evening by the lady who is tarrying
elsewhere today in the women’s circle of the austrian people party
perhaps doing things more important
than tending gold & silver
the furniture collected from everywhere
with tremendous sensitivity
the american cars in the garage
or the expensive wines of the klosterneuburg canons.
sitting in the convent cellar with the fourth quarter-liter
after the tenth cigarette the woman thrown out in the street
thinks of the lady’s insane relative
who is to blame for everything:
she only sneaked in
to disgust her into leaving
after a trial period of three weeks
in order to enjoy in the absence of the lady her sister-in-law
the splendor and the value and the eccentric harmony
of the objects as though they were
her own in order to play a little at
rearranging tables under the monstrous impression
everything is immovable
her own property with her own perspiration and effort
sensibly and deliberately
swept together piled up here
by her as though her wrecked live were
only wrecked by accident the times
by the fatal link
to her mother through her goodness her disgusting
mixture of goodness and stupidity
naiveté and refinement especially
in acquiring old things
from the thrift shop for example
not expensive old but only
old used articles handled by people
with marks of handling
of life on them.
the lady was unforgettable,
the housekeeper says, in her white mink
standing on the carpeted stairs
when she had the stroke
stiffened in memory of herself
so to speak – I won’t have people knocking her
not even here now on the street
with my books knowledge of french
tipsy and ugly as always
without a decent man
oh an ordinary man image
within reach only one a partially deaf servant
one can’t even flirt with
by trading cigarettes to fire up the manorial family
if one perchance had wicked thoughts
which she however does not as she says.
but now she would dearly like to
dump everything combustible on this insane woman
burn her perception of her into her skin
so that she gets it into her head
gets it under her skin what she really is
namely a dishrag a useless puppy
that compulsively must make itself
useful indispensible a marked woman
like me, the housekeeper says,
who however in the last analysis lets herself
be taken advantage of still more shamelessly
and therefore still shamelessly allied with
those who shamelessly exploited her
and those before them.
the life acquisitions of 10 years in 10 cardboard boxes
in a taxi she have them and herself
transported to the station
expecting a very mild night
in the waiting room.


(translated by Graydon Ekdahl, published in DIMENSION, Contemporary Arts and Letters, Vol. VIII, No. 1 & 2, 1975)

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