Poetry by Meret Oppenheim

From The Loveliest Vowel Empties: Collected Poems, Translated by Kathleen Heil

February 16, 2023  By Meret Oppenheim and Kathleen Heil

Oh sadness. Sunk in the blue-black grooves
Of the dark gleaming leaves. Dark figures,
Surround me. Red embers glow. Merry
Full moon extends its arms, dangerous white cloud
Departs, black cloud sticks its tongue
Out. Smoke and immense animal bodies
Roil in the ravines. Water, lichen, moss, at least
Everything drips with silver dew.
They are not angels—they are fairies,
Flying by with bright thighs,
Grazing the bushes.
I shiver in the morning cold.

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Faithful captain
Tell me
Show me the place in the clouds
That the swallow’s wing opened
The wavelike trough in the goddess’s hair
The green lights in the forest.

Now it is night.
Wicked shrews whack the goblins
The wheels have stopped turning

The darkness knows itself not—
It doesn’t even bother to ask.
It is a fist within a fist
Seen by no one.

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For you, against you
Throw all the stones behind you
And let fall the walls.

At you, on you
The hooves tear loose
For a hundred singers above.

I gut my mushrooms
I am the first guest come through
And let fall the walls.


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Excerpted from The Loveliest Vowel Empties: Collected Poems by Meret Oppenheim, translated from German and French by Kathleen Heil and published by World Poetry Books.

Meret Oppenheim and Kathleen Heil
The Swiss artist Meret Oppenheim (1913–1985) was born in Berlin-Charlottenburg and died in Basel. Best known for Object, her fur-lined teacup from 1936, her expansive body of work included painting, works on paper, and object constructions, as well as jewelry designs, public sculpture commissions, and poetry. From 2021–2023 her work was the subject of a major exhibition, the first transatlantic retrospective of her work, a collaboration between MoMA, The Menil Collection, and Kunstmuseum Bern. Kathleen Heil (b. 1982) is an artist working with languages of the body and written word, whose practice encompasses dance/performance and the writing and translating of poetry and prose. Her work appears in The New Yorker, Fence, Two Lines, The Threepenny Review, and other journals. She is the recipient of grants from the NEA, German Translators’ Fund, and Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, among others. Originally from New Orleans, she lives and works in Berlin.

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