Saturday Poem


Metrics and Ethics
Jürgen Rooste

Part 1

a philosophical question
as eventide falls
lukewarm whisky sloshing
in a smudged glass
an old-fashioned, eight-faceted one
like a vase where the spirit
takes its true form and blooms like
a thorny flower – a flesh-eating plant

metrics and ethics should together make
something that deals with the overworldly
something that deals with the rotten core of society
and with a man and his abandoned woman and their love
which was young like a cut willow wand
and seeping still its acrid sap

metrics is life’s pulse its syntax
it is how the platonic cardiogram passionately
writes itself on your wrist and temples as sentences
when you touch another person’s wrists and temples
and every pulse is a copy of that very pulse
and an echo and yet again a unique rhythm
rhythm of the body rhythm of the bodies rhythm of many naked and lustful bodies
rhythm of celestial bodies and a whooshing rollercoaster of solstices

life’s constant pulsing and ticking rhythm beaten out by
carbon atoms
annual rings in tree trunks
broods of foxes between flood waters
the hardened heart of a civil servant that missed his bus
the departure of the shore swallows and the return – always the return
stubble growth repeated to the point of bluntness and a young girl’s
a mere girl’s first menstruation
the coca cola company’s seasonal advertising campaigns
stories in scandal sheets and tabloids of murder and infidelity
and the overall decaying, souring and rotting of everything
which is like an unbroken unstoppable bouncing electro beat
and even in its most hideous forms proclaims life itself

this is the true metrics

ethics is when I can still stay human
even when god’s throne is empty even when I have no
work no home no days off or public holidays
ethics is when a lion attacks a lamb and some infant animal’s mother
tries to save its life against overwhelming odds
rather ethics is a teaching in
where we should draw borders and lines
sometimes doing nothing
not interfering, indifference saving one’s own skin staying silent
may be horribly unethical

ethics is a mere teaching with a platonic aspiration
whose spark in every human being is of course unique
and in that case undeniably right but which nevertheless
has demanded from mankind itself to be made a legacy
in the form of culture and laws like we today have laws
even culture

it is a republic at a watershed
in the waning of former ages and worlds

© Translation: 2007, Eric Dickens
Publisher: Poetry International Festival, Rotterdam, 2007