the castle

by Jan Wagner

after the visits to the sights, the trips across
the country: we balanced on the pin-
nacles of the cliffs, on stones, whose
beards of kelp a midday sun

had begun to dry out,
the barnacles, a fine sizzling,
and retreating into itself the at-
lantic, pooled between rocks in a few cisterns,

focused upon itself and mute, the capsi-
sed bulk of the beacon buoy
in its frock of rust and that sea-
swallow in the silt,

pungent as a phial of smelling salts: ebb
tide and the entire maritime basement lay
illuminated before us. a crab
sauntered sideways

towards the waves. i was first to spot the prisoner
in one of the brackish eyes:
a great clump of night that ignored
even our sticks and stones, heaving softly

but without fins,
without tentacles or mouth,
flowing into and through itself, a being,
blacker than a power cut,

a bag, swollen with ink, sufficient
even for the longest of all names,
but nameless, and when we returned
it had vanished with the next high tide.

the kings of these estates
hid away in windowless
chambers, peering into the darkness
until they were the darkness, lying in wait

of glad tidings – the word
of one who, entering the hall
confused and blinded by the bright
light of noon, sees nothing at all

except straight in front of him
the tiny patch of sun on the marble floor
that amplifies each step, and the messenger’s
time to speak has come.

Translated from German by Eva Bourke