Poetry by Uljana Wolf


aperture on october
window to courtyard:

biggest photo wallpaper
you ever sat facing

pigeons on roofedge
with clay feet

on god’s conveyor belt
standing still

no wingpair none
whose beat reaches you

an old photo
in overexposed wind


we weave ourselves
between the

and stems

on the switches
splinted kisses

against the train’s
clattering on


as if you’d
sent your

a word
in a coffer

and the lock
balks at
the key

as if it were
your stubborn

the ovens slept


when we awoke with nests
in our hair we named night

the convalescent fathers slammed
all the traps shut shovel-handed

the ovens slept without shep
herding us into their oblivion



when we were sick from soot
and the dry-bulk of archives

we moved with our grandfathers
into a boarded-up signal tower

watched the old rail guards
set their hands on the lever

through the dead switch line
ran a tremble as of traveling



when the discarded wagons
on the sidetrack dreamed

of reloading point at the oder’s knee
of freight chutes and culm

we stole one sluggish car
from its rail from its bed

letting sparks in empty warehouses
leap in our direction


The small train stations without a town.
………………………………….Wolfgang Koeppen

but when we scattered out on
an open stretch between sites

since the stars too one says
stoke their ovens above us

we sparked through landscape
that lay like fly ash around us

once more the route through to
the house of the switch operator


legnica / liegnitz

when we traveled in trains men
who weren’t our fathers carried

the country in hand-braided baskets
(mushrooms beers) drowsily in the compartment

the smoke from their mouths still
hung like night long stuck in our hair


Uljana Wolf

Uljana Wolf is a German poet and translator living in Berlin and Brooklyn. She has published four books of poetry, most recently SONNE FROM ORT (kookbooks), a collaborative erasure with Christian Hawkey. i mean i dislike that fate where I was made to where, a new translation by Sophie Seita, is forthcoming from Wonder in 2015, which adds to the three English translations of her work: my cadastre (Nor By Press), false friends (Ugly Duckling Presse), and aliens, an island (Belladonna*). Wolf also translates English-language poets into German, among them John Ashbery, Christian Hawkey, Cole Swensen, and Matthea Harvey. She has received several awards for her poetry and translation, including the prestigious Peter-Huchel-Preis in 2006 for kochanie ich habe brot gekauft, from which these translations are drawn. She teaches German and poetry translation at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn.

Greg Nissan

Greg Nissan is a poet and translator who studied comparative literature and German studies at Brown University, where his poetry was chosen for the Kim Ann Arstark Memorial Award and the Edwin Honig Memorial Award. His translations of Uljana Wolf are forthcoming from Two Lines, Asymptote, and Action, Yes. He is currently on a Fulbright grant in Berlin, working on a documentary poetry project.

kochanie ich habe brot gekauftCopyright (c) kookbooks, 2005. English translation copyright (c) Greg Nissan, 2015.