Thinking Of A Friend At Night
In this evil year, autumn comes early…
I walk by night in the field, alone, the rain clatters,
The wind on my hat…And you? And you, my friend?
You are standing—maybe—and seeing the sickle moon
Move in a small arc over the forests
And bivouac fire, red in the black valley.
You are lying—maybe—in a straw field and sleeping
And dew falls cold on your forehead and battle jacket.
It's possible tonight you're on horseback,
The farthest outpost, peering along, with a gun in your fist,
Smiling, whispering, to your exhausted horse.
Maybe—I keep imagining—you are spending the night
As a guest in a strange castle with a park
And writing a letter by candlelight, and tapping
On the piano keys by the window,
Groping for a sound…
You are already silent, already dead, and the day
Will shine no longer into your beloved
Serious eyes, and your beloved brown hand hangs wilted,
And your white forehead split open—Oh, if only,
If only, just once, that last day, I had shown you, told you
Something of my love, that was too timid to speak!
But you know me, you know…and, smiling, you nod
Tonight in front of your strange castle,
And you nod to your horse in the drenched forest,
And you nod to your sleep to your harsh clutter of straw,
And think about me, and smile.
Maybe some day you will come back from the war,
and take a walk with me some evening,
And somebody will talk about Longwy, Luttich, Dammerkirch,
And smile gravely, and everything will be as before,
And no one will speak a word of his worry,
Of his worry and tenderness by night in the field,
Of his love. And with a single joke
You will frighten away the worry, the war, the uneasy nights,
The summer lightning of shy human friendship,
Into the cool past that will never come back.
Translated by James Wright