Bridge to Global Literature

Let’s all remember that more and more poetry gets lost without earnest attempts at translation.Read poetry here to get a glimpse of the rhythms and resonances of languages you don’t know.

Poems by Lorelei Bacht

Jul 16, 2021 | Front And Center, Poetry | 0 comments

Another Fish Hits the Deck.

It is not like a boat down the river,
tranquil. There is no little house, no
paper moon.

I talk a lot. When I do not, I feel
ashamed. I cannot name the shame.

I cannot bear to look at it. I am aware
of its nauseating presence behind
my ear, always, its breath
on the back of my head. No,

I do not know what it says; I do not want
to know; I do not want to be forced
to bear the burden that was forced
upon the people before me,
all I want is: to sleep.

To have nothing to do with it.

I do not want to count the houses
passed along the way. I do not want
to tell the children how I missed
a train, forgot to lock a door,
left a songbird behind, I am


You can have my suitcase. You can
have my children, their name. You can
have everything under the silent

eye of the sky,

who did not part the sea,
who did not stop the train,
who did not burn the house,
who did not hold the hand



The Cartographer

But our family’s luggage, a box here and
a box there, and – who will attend to it?

I have begun to draw a map, based on
their incomplete coordinates: “North”,

“Germany”, “a little to the left”, “a ditch
in a forest”, “black trees”, “anywhere

else”. It does not help, how they switch
names and alphabets. Where is it now,

the bundle tied and left behind? What
was in it, is it worth reclaiming?

Self-addressed, the parcel is returned
about a century too late – I cannot read

the name, the preserves all rotten,
something rancid has leaked all over

the papers. I cannot translate names
from series of numbers. I wish, so hard

it makes me nauseous, but here it is,

the ugly truth:

none of it is usable in any way.


The Oranges We Grew

While, buried at the back of my old
mother’s house, my heart calls for

the skeleton which I have walked
over the continent. And split open,

the bone aches but cannot return.
My children, playing in a language

new to me. The schoolteacher’s smile
translated into: we would like to learn

more about your culture. I see no point.
The ritual is such: every morning, before

the house wakes up, I roast coffee – my
father’s way – attempt to remember

the song. But the words now stolen:
they drowned before reaching the shore.

And was it really oranges we grew?
Memory lapses. I am beginning to run

out of interest for the old storyline. I sit
on the sofa, being no-one, wondering


I got into that car in the first place.


See How We Travel?

The only one who sits is the one who
misses the one now departed. There is

no other way. You are either: taken away
or left behind. The whole family tree

can be divided thus: this one departs;
and that one sits. The one who sits

does the crying, while the other one
dies – tumble, tumble, we trickle down

to the left, to the right. This one strides
his great boot across the plain; he grows

a nose for saffron and camels; he prays
with an ear to the wind. That one has

his throat cut; he will no longer farm.
This one has made it to the sea, and

what else can he do but sit, while his
brother walks a fishnet into the tide,

and dies. But see: history lurks
behind the church, now the sitter is made

to walk and make a living in the capital.
No sooner does he sit, that his son is

walked to some frontline or other – and,
well, shrapnel. I begin to lose count: is it

my turn? Am I a sitting or a walk? A walk,
it seems. I walk across the Atlantic, and

back, around, and all the way to where
my grandmother began, and I know this:

every time I fall to the ground, hoping
that it will be the last – I am reborn.


Dandelions, If We’re Lucky.

Black and white, dripping red paint,
we know of many ways to build

a road: from bricks, from bombs –
your blood is our tar, our mortar, supper;
any body will do: we all

look the same, underground.

The family – yours, mine, every
clothesline dripping the same, if you care

to take a closer look: a name and two series
of numbers in a book – sometimes,

some timelines need to be shortened:

we can’t all live where we were born.

And if by miracle, some years later,
you find the place again, here is a dagger
for your heart, that says: gone, gone,

gone. What did you think? That we
would wait for you? That someone kept
your baby books, your cat? We are the same

that murdered your brother. We love not
not our neighbours but the road,

the road – sing to it, now – the road!

that flattens bodies into the landscape,
and grows us into

dandelions, if we’re lucky.


Poetic Statement

These poems all refer to my family’s experience of wars, which is manifold and rooted inseveral time periods and geographic locations over Europe. Because each side has had a different experience, I have sought to extract what is a-temporal, universal in the experience of war, and more generally, what leads people to violence. I hope that these poems read more like dark tales than specific accounts of historical events.
Lorelei Bacht is a multicultural poet living in Asia. A former political analyst and lobbyist, she has been using poetry to explore the universal, psychological, embodied nature of political violence through history. Her work has appeared / is forthcoming in such publications as The Wondrous Real, Quail Bell, Abridged Magazine, Odd Magazine, Postscript, Strukturriss, ZIN Daily, Agapanthus Collective, and Slouching Beast Journal. She is also on Instagram: @lorelei.bacht.writer and on Twitter: @bachtlorelei


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Ongoing Event

Ongoing Event

Upcoming Books

Ongoing Events

Antonym Bookshelf

You have Successfully Subscribed!