Poetry by Jürgen Becker

A Worn-out Machine

Oil leaks, rusty sides; yet
it drives on
through each effort. The quiet
wheezing is a shared
customary ache: there’s no reason
for disturbance. It overcomes
difficulties with its routine,
and above all, experiences. It’s learned
that a machine doesn’t complain
and gives no cause for complaint.
It’s harder to come to terms with new
products; that’s when deciding what to do
gets serious. More oil drips
out, and what’s more, now
there’s an unaccustomed noise.
The machine knows it’s good,
and it knows
it can’t help itself.

Dublin in Bloomtime

These wild faces
above the still river surface.
Then the pack of dogs disappears
with the stolen hat.
Green bottles sway seaward.
At night, time comes along like photos
yellowing with Bloom.

The Window at the End of the Corridor

The sky, the landscape, the river:
the image at the end of the corridor.
Left and right in the apartment;
The fire extinguisher. The hum of the elevator.
The time after the offices close. Averted faces,
no word and no tenderness.
Someone will begin it,
and going by his door
and going farther, past the image,
out of the room, in flight.


Jürgen Becker

Jürgen Becker was born in Köln, Germany, in 1932. He is the author of over thirty books--novels, story collections, poetry collections, and plays--all published by Germany's premier publisher, Suhrkamp. He has won numerous prizes in Germany, including the Heinrich Böll Prize, the Uwe Johnson Prize, and the Hermann Lenz Prize, among others. Becker's work often deals with his childhood experience of WWII and the political consequences of the postwar division of Germany.

Okla Elliott

Okla Elliott is a PhD candidate at the University of Illinois, where he works in the fields of comparative literature and trauma studies. He also holds an MFA from Ohio State University. His fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and translations have appeared in such literary journals as Another Chicago Magazine, Indiana Review, The Literary Review, Natural Bridge, New Letters, and A Public Space. He is the author of a collection of short fiction, From the Crooked Timber, and three poetry chapbooks: The Mutable Wheel, Lucid Bodies and Other Poems, and A Vulgar Geography. He is also the co-editor, with Kyle Minor, of The Other Chekhov.

"Eine verbrauchte Maschine" and "Das Fenster am Ende des Korridors." Copyright (c) Jürgen Becker, 1977. "Dublin in Bloomtime." Copyright (c) Jürgen Becker, 1990. English translation copyright (c) Okla Elliott, 2013.