Dieter Sperl

Letters from Vienna

Whenever I had set about it as a sixteen-year-old, when as a twenty-year-old, now as a thirty-two-year-old, so when I was a seventeen-year-old, when as a seventeen-year-old I had got to know someone, a woman, a child, a man, a warm expanse, or moments of a taut movement, absently lying in the sun, or just parts, individual parts, an individual part, jet of water, when something fell into me, took me with it, a desire set itself free, a desire which set me free, for hours perhaps only minutes, perhaps there was no desire, I don’t know, never known where it came from, why it came, a strand of hair perhaps, perhaps there was no desire at all, but what then, I wrote a letter in my head, I went through streets, through a wood, I wrote a letter in my head, whenever it was a love story, perhaps it was never a love story, always something else, I don’t know, just like now, I don’t know, people don’t write letters like this, people don’t write letters like this, even now people don’t write letters like this, come in the children in the train compartment call to their mother who is outside the compartment smoking a cigarette, come in or you won’t come with us, hunt with hounds periods of being in love, perhaps, give yourself up, you had to betray the rules, and not occupy any more room, simply break off, simply break off now, three further cats say there is water, this radical claim to completeness is shattered, I don’t ask, where does it come from otherwise, a fascistic line, I don’t ask where does it come from otherwise, where do these catatonic effects come from, on this summer’s morning I can’t listen to any more music, it’s an attack of affection for this world, at a table with plants on it, walk to a mountain, when we hadn’t noticed each other, walk along a mountain, everything as if all at once, what a body, which then draws me to just in front of this world, what a body, and when I then went to the front of the house, we were looking in the same direction, the window opens, the difference throws us into our own monologue, and with my feet frozen into the ground, so much time between the noises, I said to the doctor, and raindrops between the wind, a car driving up, I don’t know, cold on my temples, cold on my skin, raindrops like ice crystals all over my body, you creep through the grass like a Red Indian, suddenly the drops tear through the trees, the drops tear because I’m not even nearby, other realities speak quite normally, as if I had caught a letter between these drops, between the crystals, caught a letter, but what is the difference actually between people who live on their experiences and those who live for life, at the beginning there are intensities, then time comes along and takes us with it, then fears come along and take us with them, we are permanently making compromises to bear it, as a child I was always sad when it stopped raining, looked into the puddles of water, out of the window, between the curtains, with my head between the curtains, dragged across a table for just a few minutes, so infatuated with this absence, I don’t know, I’m only imagining it, when all traces have been torn up, and brush the first snow out of the window, then go hunting, then go hunting, when it breaks out, as pain, it then breaks out again and again, with the fur boots, like a joke, then hurled against the wall, with these frozen fingers, fallen back like this, a seventeen-year-old beginning a letter, like a thirteen-year-old, or later as a twenty-year-old, I never began this letter, this letter never needed to be written, because you would like to say something which reaches beyond itself and actually stupidly enough stayed at home, only here, only here, never look for the answers who you are and where you are, this body, which is painful perhaps, you’d like to be so far away here and now, these desires which grow out of physical attacks, and what they end in, these fingers, when we change our position in the morning, take our first steps and take stock of ourselves, in the smallest movement, like storm clouds brewing, always to say now, although you’ve already lost yourself with those earnest movements which only make us look ridiculous.

as the saying goes

to give your sheep or your cow a large, spacious meadow is the way to control him.
shunryu suzuki

then whenever there’s a light or there isn’t a light or the darkness on your head the cars driving or the lights the lights which they cast in behind the curtain through the curtain when they cast in lights movement between the dogs sit in the forest and stay between the leaves lie until it’s morning rapid wingbeats of a magpie cold wind on your ears but a certain a certain very slow rumble is closely interwoven with the spring you can perhaps hear the steps in the glass if you could only hear better the steps in the glass between the plants and the stones just towards morning past the bird on the roadsides it was always winter then or autumn never summer with your coat open no longer right in the head as the saying goes everything forgotten perhaps a few seconds or less perhaps you only imagine it now one voice now another that was your childhood they’ve given it up no questions not even any more questions the old conversations when they come and force themselves into the here and now how are things they ask just as how things are we answer when they come and ask us in me in the plants and animals in this october as if they were dancing the fishes before lively rainy days quite near where they’re at home and the sounds of grinding from the dismantling section they hang at night over the suburbs as if they were dancing from the side into the holding stack in the smell of hot hotplates you put off your happiness to a day in a sun outside the city just towards morning to tear off farther and farther away on so many car journeys at night when it was raining above all at night when it was raining with your head pressed to the window the wipers in your head feeling the lights of the cars driving by before it had become sunday in the car in the morning on the way to work in the traffic jam before the car finally got warm before it finally got warm in the car you were usually already there on the tennis court in the midday heat only the bodies they’re still running no animal in sight only a car is standing there abandoned you don’t know you only imagine it with a yawning abyss your feet in empty space someone is screaming someone is having convulsions in my chair until the days are almost exhausted the faces behind the houses along the walls on this morning people are going round so close is it the strong wind when something makes the body vibrate when things get noticed everything almost dies out after a day such weak traces and flies under your palms that the bodies between the trees from day to day quite suddenly begin to flutter the hands on the hunt then on the hunt then to question to look to question on and on to continue like this on and on when steps suddenly move into a corner death follows another christmas never comes never comes push the pram through the countryside on and on to question to continue like this on and on the heart flickers on the screen go to another town sitting down in the sun be overlooked in streaming rains and push the pram through the neighbourhood start a file of what you’ve done wrong something like memory and dream or the clouds then towards morning all the appearances which are being spoken do an about-turn and come towards you step by step there is no reason to do something every day to wheeze tongue hanging out to grow up like this what’s been contained for so long when it forces itself with superior strength it suddenly forces itself out everything lies out in the open and plunges down into the staircase on my head cactuses are growing two dogs are running fast entangled in the snow to the point of being totally surprised blue window-openings veiled women often in black children playing almost everything grows here like each pulse-beat the minutes or seconds then one keyword then another girls show off their dolls after they’ve been beheaded always long since somewhere else each pulse-beat marry or not have children aiming straight for the goal without a break to force forward like this at our feet now one childhood now another a few steps a few steps still acceptable long seconds only sun and dirt limited to a few parts of the body only the flamingos leave behind their attitude to the rain in the night I had built a bird cage without moving a finger tongue hanging out when we come to perch in front of the mountain of work tongue hanging out with whole heart and body on the tennis court behind the house father’s superior at work a tall man with a black beard and affected movements is playing against a small boy but he’s stuffed himself so much that he’s pulling strips of peppers out of his mouth and throwing them in the rubbish bin with stimulated hands caught up in such weather with all this hair just a few hours now one birth now another at this hour this place now and no reason to reach a particular state tongue hanging out

Translated by Gordon Burgess.

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