Audio: Read by the translator.
Thus, Jesus, I behold your feet again
that were a young man’s feet when I, with fear,
stripped them of their shoes and washed them down;
how they stood, entangled in my hair
like a white stag within a bush of brier.
Thus I behold your never-cherished limbs
in this, our night of love, and not before.
We never lay in one another’s arms,
and now I’ll only watch you and admire.
But, look, beloved, your poor hands are torn—
and not by me, not love-bites of my own.
Your heart stands wide for all to enter in:
it should have been a door for me alone.
You’re weary, and your weary mouth has now
no longing for my mouth, that aches for you.
O Jesus, Jesus, when was our time? How
curiously we’re perishing, we two.
Translated from the German by Susan McLean
Susan McLean has published two books of poetry, The Best Disguise (Evansville) and The Whetstone Misses the Knife (Story Line), and a book of translations of the Latin poet Martial, Selected Epigrams (Wisconsin).
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.