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Sunday, 6 September 2009

Brecht: Die Opiumräucherin


File:Shelf cloud over Moscow (5 June 2006 06.00 MSK).jpg

Shelf cloud over Moscow: photo by Chesnok, 2006

You know a girl who loses herself nightly in the black smoke

Before long finds herself a zombie's nihil bride.
She can't be lowered later nor can she be uplifted.
Two out of three mornings she won't even seem alive.

Why try keeping her chin up, there's no longer the incentive.
Her nerve is gone, her hair and looks are shot.
Passing a shopwindow, she sees a stranger reflected.
Who's that person? Must be someone she's not.

The smoke inveigles itself into her blood, fogs her head.
She sleeps alone now to be closer to the soil
That's reeling her in on an invisible thread.

That she exists at all escapes her notice.
In the end she'd prefer invisibility, reserving
All her attentions for a girl's best friend.


Rolling thunderstorm shelf cloud (Cumulonimbus arcus), Enschede, the Netherlands
: photo by John Kerstholt, 2004

Die Opiumräucherin: Bertolt Brecht, 1925 (English version: TC)


phaneronoemikon said...

I actually got to smoke some opium not too long ago, brought back by an american soldier from afghanistan. pretty disappointingly weak actually. seems like a nice glass of kentucky bourbon is infinitely finer stuff. that's twice in 42 years, oh well, live and learn.

knott said...

love to have a book of these translations you're posting lately . ..

is something in the works?

David Grove said...

Is this just a sonnet Brecht wrote, or is it from one of his plays? It's not in Threepenny, though the subject matter is reminiscent of some Threepenny songs--"Nannas Lied," "The Pimp's Ballad." I like it. Makes me want to write a blues sonnet based on something like "Cocaine Lil and Morphine Sue."

Jon said...


her girls best friend indeed!

thanks for this post tom...

wanted to say hi... have been lurking here for a while... we have a mutual friend in human being... our recently departed friend...

also saw a review of your work on ron silliman's blog... that's a funny connection too... but leave that aside for now...

will drop in again and see what's happening in your realm... hope you don't mind me linking to your site on my page... if it's a problem please let me know...

one garden to another...


TC said...


"The Opium Smoking Girl" was written in Augsburg on September 7, 1925--eighty-four years ago today, as it happens. Brecht was twenty-seven at the time and had been doing dramatic work for about three years, but the work on Threepenny Opera was still a year or two away. He had begun with popular ballad narrative forms meant for delivery in performance, and that idea of the "gestic" aspect of verse would remain a permanent motive in his work. By this time he had been reading Villon, Rimbaud, Whitman, and (yes) Kipling, all in German translation.


Thanks for coming round. A book of translations would be a wonderful pipe dream, had I a pipe--though from the example of Brecht's heroine, that might have cost me my motivation... of which little currently remains to spare anyway. (Maybe I ought to bum some from you, you've posted so much good work these past two days.)


Well, to each his own artificial paradise, I guess. (Is there any other kind?)

By the way, thanks for "Nunch" ... my crustacean glad eye hasn't been so well fed in light years.


Good to meet you, I've been to your blog and am already enjoying the exchange.

Mariana Soffer said...

Excelent poem! and the pictures I liked them a lot. I feel like I am like that girl, and also want to be invisible myself, why would I wan t to be seen for, if it is not possible to be real anmore in this fucked up world?

Take care dear tom.

TC said...


Thank you my dear, and along with my thanks I must also tell you this: though it is indeed a fucked up world, and though to me you must remain invisible (alas), I know for certain that you are real, because I can feel you from here, and for me that is the only definition reality will ever have. I mean, for real, like they say.

knott said...

well, the trans/versions you've been posting are brilliant, well worth gathering into a book,

as are needless to say the your own new poems featured here. . .

TC said...


Thank you again for the encouraging words.

Trans/Versions I will henceforth regard as the title of this prospective gathering.