911. Vanished Work, by Hans Magnus Enzensberger

Rather remote, all of it.
As in a saga, darkly,
the rag-and-bone-man
with his battered top hat,
the blue hand of the woad-miller,
the corn-chandler in his cool cellar.

The rush-man has deserted his reed,
the beekeeper his hive,
the charcoal burner his flue.
The woolcarder threw her teasel away,
the trough-maker his chisel.
Trades moldered away,
extinct skills.

What has happened to the bridoons,
the hames and the terrets?
The cartwright has passed away.
Only his name survives,
like an insect congealed in amber,
in the telephone book.

But the shimmering block of light
I have lived to see
with my own eyes, heaved
easily, as if by magic
with an iron hook
onto the leathery shoulder-strap

of the iceman, on Wednesdays
at noon, punctually, and the chips
melted like fire
in my chill mouth.

(trans Michael Hamburger with the author)

Source: The Vintage Book of Contemporary World Poetry

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