Two More Poems by Jörg Zink – Translated

I, Moles

Every being on this Earth has their own world
and every one is sure that their world is the only one
that really exists.

I think to myself:
Underneath the fig tree, in the loose soil,
lives a family of moles.

I imagine asking Daddy mole,
“How big is the world?”
He’ll think about this for a while, then say:
“It’s very big. It’s made of soil
that reaches two mole-lengths down.
Then you hit rock. That’s where the world ends.
It reaches two mole-lengths up,
then comes Hell. That’s where the devils are
who want to kill us with their spades.
This is where the world is, here in our burrows, 
here where there’s food for the noblest of creatures,
for us moles.”

His wife and child, however, consider
Father to be a wise man.
They roll themselves up in their cosy, soft, warm fur
and are sure that they
are living in the hub of the world,
privileged above all other creatures.

II. Beetles

Let’s have a little more fun:
In the grass at the edge of the field
two ladybirds are strolling through the clover
content after a good meal
and philosophising about the limits of existence.

One of them, his brow furrowed in thought,
starts thinking aloud:
“Might there not be creatures in the world
that are utterly different from us? Bigger? Stronger?
Wise and powerful? Humans, maybe?
Or whatever you want to call them.”

The other beetle laughs so hard that the blade of grass quivers.
“Humans? Are you kidding?
Have you ever seen one?”
“No, never seen any,” admits the first, abashed.

And they conclude that there can’t be any humans
as there’s no proof of their existence.
“The truth is,” says the second insect, 
“that nothing exists unless you can see it
and hear it and count it and define it,
and above all else, eat it.”
And they turn their smug attention 
to their dessert.

Strange, how obediently we follow – Jörg Zink

Strange, how obediently we follow 
When we listen to our experts.
Day after day we let ourselves be persuaded
That our world goes no further
Than what can be reduced to figures,
theorems, proofs.
We let them tell us: a different world,
A spiritual one maybe, spiritual beings,
Even a God – that’s all wishful thinking.

We let them wall us in.
We say: no one is free.
We are all shaped by our genes.
Our job maps our path.
We are fixed, we say,
and freedom is a dream.

But maybe we could be freer than we think
If we opened our eyes –
Both in our heart and in our spirit –
Maybe we could cross all borders
Drifting with the white clouds 
Across the blue of an endless heaven.

(My translation)

Broad, blue to the horizon – Jörg Zink

Broad, blue to the horizon, lies the fjord
Hemmed in by distant mountains.
Stretching as far as the eye can see: water, rocks, sky,
Blurring in the mist of the distance.

But what for the outward eye stretches into infinity
also stretches into infinity in our own soul,
and our inner world
is even more infinite than the outer.

For where the inward things end
is where a new, boundless world begins.

An ancient legend tells of a river
that runs around the edge of the world, and it says:
Look beyond! There, too, is truth!

And I sense:
All the boundaries we see,
All the boundaries we bump into,
Can open up to us
And our freedom begins
Wherever we look beyond the bounds

This is my rendering of the first poem by Jörg Zink in his little book “Unter weitem Himmel”, a beautiful collection of poetry and photographs, with a positivity frequently absent in the literature of these present times.

It’s over five years since I exultantly bought this lovely book for just one cent (plus postage) – a tale I recounted here – and I really don’t know why it has taken me so long to get around to putting these poems – which are really one long reflection – into English. His website, in German, can be found here: He lived to be 93, and was a very prolific author so I’m sure I can’t be the first person to translate any of his works into English. However, Google is letting me down in this instance by only bringing up German results for me. Never mind: that means I can get on with putting these into English without having to compare myself with people far better than I am, which can be intimidating as well as challenging.

I have two other poems on this blog that are my translations of Zink’s originals, here and here. Both of these come from the same source, Unter weitem Himmel. I don’t want to infringe anyone’s copyright, so any images included are mine. We don’t have many fjords here in Switzerland, and I haven’t been to Norway, so at present I don’t have a suitable photo to accompany this poem. Perhaps my daughter can oblige, since she has been there?

Anyway, enjoy!


The road runs to meet you
Eager as a hungry mouth
Swallows and spits you out
At the tunnel’s end
Races headlong towards you
Until the turning
There it slows
And pours you into the lane
That tips you into the house
Your journey’s end
And the road retreats
Back into the hills.

When Old Friends Meet

Hello, come in, sit down,
I’ll put the kettle on and make us tea.
Here, have a biscuit –
sorry I have no cake to offer you –
and let’s talk about old times
redressing the past
and re-inventing history
In the glow of nostalgia
regilding our tarnished golden youth
when the world waited agog
only for our final perfecting touch
and it was all so easy
so close to Paradise
and yet –
so far, so far away …
What went awry?
No, don’t! Don’t say!
Let’s still preserve
our gingerbread world intact
with its redacted memories –
Here, have a chocolate digestive.
That’s better!

Cry of the Clay

Does the lump of clay tremble at the thought of becoming a pot?
Does it apprehend why it has to be kneaded and slapped into shape,
Softened by being slammed against a hard surface, pulled
And kneaded yet again?

Does it scream in pain as it is thrown onto the potter’s wheel,
Spun round and round at dizzying speed,
With the potter’s hands shaping and moulding it,
Digging into it,
Raising it higher and higher until it attains the desired form?

And as it rests, drying out after that ordeal, parched,
Has it any idea of what it’s about to go through
In the kiln, not once but twice?
And when it is finished, and stands as a glazed vessel,
Beautiful, useful, delicate or strong,
Does it have any regrets?

Feline Manipulation

Two reasons for posting this poem here:

  1. My posts are beginning to sound depressing so here’s something cheerful.
  2. This one really belongs on my Cats and Catterel page, as it’s a classic example of what that page is about, but that page is also becoming unwieldy so I’m putting it here as well. Anyone who has ever had the privilege of being on a Cat’s staff will understand what I’m describing here


I’ll sit by my bowl quite discreetly
Waiting for something to sup,
I will sing for my supper so sweetly
They’ll hurry to make me shut up.

Then I’ll sit on the windowsill inside
And scratch on the pane with my paws
When they let me go out, on the outside
I’ll scratch it again with my claws.

When I feel like some fussing and petting
I’ll crouch on their tummies and purr
Kneading and pounding and getting
Them mesmerised till they can’t stir.

Sometimes, just for amusement,
I’ll wind round their ankles and feet
As they stagger around in bemusement
I’ll beat a nimble retreat.

I sleep in the most awkward places:
The dog’s bed is better than mine,
So I jump in and make snarly faces
To show him he’d better resign.

I know there are times when they cuss me
For keeping them all on their toes
But more often than not, they just fuss me –
Why? A secret nobody knows!

I am The Cat, so superior
To anyone else on the scene.
I know and you know you’re inferior:
So acknowledge me, please, as The Queen.

Age and Wisdom

Old men grown wise agree
When wasted muscles fail
That laying down their arms
And talking should prevail;

But younger men will fight
And pit their strength wholesale,
Will maim and kill to win –
And words will not avail.

Some older men, less wise,
And boastful although frail,
Send younger men to die
On an ever greater scale.


Across the blue sky
With its cuddly cauliflower clouds
Roaring like thunder
Like thunder deafening
Splitting the peace
Of our sparsely-populated valley
Fighter jets rehearse war

Then silence

Deafening silence

Suddenly broken as ears re-open
To the murmur of the stream
Twittering sparrows
And the sudden shriek of swifts
In rapid patrouille formation
Shooting like a screaming hail of arrows
Across the blue sky
Beneath the clouds

Nature imitating horror.

Low-flying swallows
They say
Herald a storm
Clouds gather grey
Thor’s hammer strikes
Deafening thunder roars

Nature imitating horror.