Poems by

Richard Huelsenbeck

in English translation by Johannes Beilharz


To Ludwig the cocotte

Your leg hangs over me like a crescent moon
all clear: Your breasts breathe two small animals
behind the most exquisite Brussels lace
hey garçon: Café au lait – le matin please and a glass of water
Basically you are like your sisters who with bobbing bellies
creep along the sewers anxiously listening
for the vice squad whistle and meat-eating pimps
The cattle dealer whose pants and alligator leather
wallet
you stole has taught me everything about your
soul
hey – old pig: you've turned fifty but the high school
kids are still dreaming of you lots
They dream: you approach silently with the elastic
cane
teaching their behinds what their heart desires
hey you old lechers and white slave traders you gypsies and
hotel thieves
pray pray if you like that
Or drink yourselves stinko up the houses break open the
gutter
let the fire brigade thunder flush the rivers out of their sleep
old scum I walk towards you bottle in arm you crazy
specter
Is it you again delicious pig has the surgeon spied
your belly yet grapnel brandished torch and chloroform
Dada! Dada! only you are alive sweet love

(An die Kokotte Ludwig)

 

The evening comes the lambs flock home

Big stone balls celebrate their midday meal
The fleas will emigrate once the bets are placed
Then the country will be empty
Many more people must die of starvation
Take the executioner's sword and pierce the piss pot
Take the sun and shake your trouser leg
Everything needs to be thought over carefully
Unexpectedly the lions landed in my fireplace
Unexpectedly my head dropped onto my butt
Tarammtata rammta
The fatherland we shall love the great cheese cake
And the moon old Bismarck
And the ships skirting around the mashed potatoes
at midnight

(Der Abend naht die Lämmer ziehen heim)

 

The cylindrical gable

for John Heartfield

Up rose the dadasopher from the dada megalo toilet seat and made the following speech   I am the dadasopher from the beginning to the end   I hold a whisky bottle in my left hand and an eraser in my right hand   Nobody's got anything on me   The letters dance out of my ears and my belly makes waves to the beat of the Hohenfriedberger march   I crack my whip from east to west and the young lice I wish so well shout for joy on my fingers   My head's in the Nile and my legs chop open the Arctic Ocean but nobody knows what that's good for   This is Dadaco the book of the sun but even the sun doesn't know what it's good for   Look at the white steam spreading from my nostrils to cover the earth – see the shadow cast by my lips   I am the young moon waiting in waders as the trains depart I am the calf that climbs up the rain gutters in drill step   Yes yes that makes you marvel you earthly louts and blindworms that makes you rub your nose on the petroleum tank but that's not the last we've heard of that   Somebody came with an accordion and played for the elephant dance   I am the meteorite dropping out of the nipples of the moon   I am the cylindrical gable mounted by John Heartfield   Hey you underground workers and knackers open your bellies wide and trample the hair under your feet   Judgment day has begun the great day of reckoning.

(Der Zylindergiebel)

 

Don Iñigo de Loyola

The galleons are pulled up and down the soul separates from the moon and the pockets of the soul the Indians we have christianized and the whores who were guilty of diabolic vice have been for eight days I kiss the rock our Lord Jesus Christ stepped on as he ascended to heaven a blond boy lashes me in the morning before dawn and the frogs drink my holy blood I threw my eyes behind my back and the publicans and sinners danced on them until their breath departed from them I am crossing the Rubicon my head awhirl with sacraments my mules are towering over the cities and the crowds adore them oh I'm holding the shadow roofs and earthen tablets in my hands as if to my delight who would refuse me that with cries the ground opens up before me ABBA ABBA the wise men are shouting behind me when I hold my breath there is wailing from the graves when I dance the wolves tell their offspring cold lord cold lord as to one Oh yes but one not wholly THOU ART MY PATH AND THE TRUTH THOU SHALT BE WITH ME

(Don Inigo von Loyola)


These poems were first published in the volume Phantastische Gebete (Fantastic Prayers) in 1916 (Collection Dada, Zurich), then reissued in 1920 in an expanded edition with illustrations by George Grosz (some of which are shown here) by Malik Verlag, Berlin.

The translation is based on the text of the 1960 edition published by Arche Verlag, Zurich with a new dedication and preface by Richard Huelsenbeck.

Dedication:

I dedicate this book to the generation of terror.

Richard Huelsenbeck
New York, March 1960

From the preface:

More than forty years, almost half a century, have passed since the Fantastic Prayers were first published, and we pinch our noses to verify that we are still alive. A whole world lies between 1916 and 1960, and mankind has turned around twice on its toes and heels since then. From waltzes to rock and roll, from Cabaret Voltaire to Abstract Expressionism, from the Kaiser's mustache to Dewey's republican handlebar mustache, from the corset to the bra, from glory to publicity, from religion to Billy Graham, etcetera, etcetera, a vertiginous game with changed values.

From the depths of my origins in Hesse and Westphalia, where the people ate, slept and loved because they were certain of their purpose and God's protective power, my existence has turned into something panicky, perhaps terrible but also something great. With the train of time I have moved westward from the west, and now I look out of my window at the New York skyscrapers surrounding my house near and far like steel mushrooms of antedeluvian origin burst out of the primary rock. People come and go in masses; this is considered progress; the lunar rocket is about to be launched, the democratic sense of smell is discovering mathematical geniuses among the loafers in doorways and corners; the girls are glad to be as thin as wafers. But you ask yourself: "Where shall we end if half of mankind has dissolved in air, desire and nylon ... ?"
...
As Arp and I are sitting in the large living room of my house on Central Park in November 1958, we try again and again to understand the significance of dadaism for ourselves and for others. Many elements surfaced in me and in the Fantastic Prayers at the same time; resistance against the "civilization" we live in, fury about a purely factual world which leaves out personality and thus creative power, the means of irony and underlying religiousness. Ball turned religious during the times of dadaism, Arp is a religious person today, and I have always been one, without wanting to realize it, perhaps without knowing it.
Religiousness has little to do with faith as it is taught in church. It is no more than the archetypal power of experience surrounding the incisive universal spirit. It is the experience of constructive will in the world which lends wings to the course of the stars despite all the fallen angels and helps man in the course of his life to understand the archetypal symbols of his existence. And deeper than daily thought. The silence behind the noise is the sense of the Fantastic Prayers.
Richard Huelsenbeck - New York, November 1958

Cover of 1960 edition.

© 1916 / 1920 / 1960 by Richard Huelsenbeck, translations © 2000 by Johannes Beilharz

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