Two Poems by Nikolaj Reber

To Ludwig van Beethoven

Well, brother Ludwig, blackcock of the wood,
give me a hug to feel our bones colliding.
You are oblivious to noises–would you mind then
If I pretend my vision isn’t good?
The wiring is a bluff, beyond repair, off.
You are not here, I’m certainly not there.
Men sow their seed completely unaware
it won’t be separated from the chaff.
They do it ’cause they can. And truth
appears less convincing than a fiction.
It was his God who sent him on a mission.
It was his fans who took him off the Cross.
We try to grasp the essence of events:
the tomb was empty, that’s too much for seekers–
overexcited, trustful, never-thinking–
they’ll find relief in following a trend.
The wire fails–love barely comes through,
contacts are burning, stench is in the air,
the battery fails too but we don’t care:
the corner where we dwell is cut in two.
The seventh seal is clearly out of reach–
forget about it, at least for now.
My liber Ludwig, enveloped in a shroud
of sorrow we feel ourselves besieged.
Run, liber, run! The prostheses must work!
If not–rely on caliber and status.
This world is wrapped around your sonatas
like ’round curlers–peroxided locks.
It’s time to take precautions after all:
to ground circuits, to secure accounts,
to check escape routes–if any could be found
before celestial accords bring down walls.

Herr Vogel

One night Herr Vogel has escaped to jail,
not from, which would be less intriguing.
By thoroughly cultivating inner freedom
inside these walls, he claims, he will prevail.

He’s confident, he doesn’t feel perplexed.
He writes. He writes without intermissions.
It seems, however, something here is missing
and what remains falls out of context.

He contemplates “to be or not to be,”
evokes Jerusalem and Pontius Pilate,
and then, so fervent to unveil it,
proceeds with names of Hellenic warships.

Herr Vogel writes–that truly makes him tick…
Regarding kings and queens in their crowns
he has no doubt–they’re still around:
a couple of eons to the dead is such a joke.

He’s busy with repackaging old truths–
amazingly they sound quite authentic,
whereas our speech appears deceptive
resembling a crafty widow on the loose.

Our world is crowded. We live online.
We’re gigabytes in a digital arena,
We run in packs on pure adrenaline and
we write in packs–same nonsense all the time.

We write–or rather bite. One can be hurt
by wry remarks–of those there are plenty.
So many words and most of them are empty.
So many pages could be labeled “void.”

Herr Vogel falls asleep, he’s sleeping well.
His conscience is clear, he’s a man on a mission.
He wrote the Song of Songs–a special edition.
One night Herr Vogel has escaped to jail….


Nikolaj Reber

Nikolaj Reber was born in Ryazan, a city in the central part of Russia. He studied at the Moscow Medical Institute and the Medical Institute of Zurich University. Since 1993, he's lived in near Zurich, practicing psychiatry and writing poetry in Russian. He is well known in literary circles and on the internet, his poems frequently appear in Russian magazines. He is the author of two books of poetry: The shot in the blue (1997) and Weekend in Babylon (2006). He also co-authored the book Going to downtown (2006).

Boris Kokotov 

Boris Kokotov was born in Moscow. Since 1991, he's lived in Baltimore. He writes poems and short stories in both Russian and English. His translations of writing by the German Romantics were published in the Russian anthology The Century of Translation. His translation of Louise Glück's The Wild Iris was nominated in 2012 for the best translation of the year in Russia. 

Copyright (c) Nikolaj Reber, 2006. English translation copyright (c) Boris Kokotov, 2018.