Dead Port

by Ingeborg Bachmann

Ingeborg Bachmann

Damp flags hang from the poles
in the colors no country has ever wore,
and they blow for muddy stars
and the moon resting green in the masthead.

Water world from the days of discovery!
waves overrun every path,
and from above the light drips from nets
new roads laid in the air.

Down below, water scrolls through the Bibles
and the compass needle points to night.
The gold is washed from the dreams
and the sea remains the legacy.

Not a country, not one remained untrodden!
And torn the seaman's yarn floats,
because the great, laughing explorers
fell into the dead arm of the river.

Last updated October 31, 2022