The Writer and the Girl

American Notebook brings you today a candid poem, “The Writer and the Girl”, published last November in Poems to Talk about 2013, and inspired by an apocryphal story about the last months in Franz Kafka’s life, which writers like César Aira (in his article “The travelling doll”) and Paul Auster (in The Brooklyn Follies) have retold… and if you’re feeling all fancy-schmancy like a patron of the arts you can buy the e-book and support Poetic Republic, a one of a kind poetry competition in which participating poets select their own favorite poems…

Cuaderno Americano os trae hoy el cándido poema “The Writer and the Girl”, que se publicó el pasado noviembre en Poems to Talk about 2013, para que practiquéis vuestro inglés 🙂 Está inspirado en una historia apócrifa sobre los últimos meses de la vida de Franz Kafka de la que escritores como César Aira (en su artículo “La muñeca viajera”) y Paul Auster (en Brooklyn Follies) se han hecho eco… y si además os sentís espléndidos y un poco mecenas del arte podéis comprar el e-book y apoyar a Poetic Republic, una competición poética única en la que los propios poetas participantes eligen sus poemas favoritos…

The Writer and the Girl

To Franz Kafka, César Aira and Paul Auster

November, 1923.

In Berlin, days are grim
and after writing
I take a walk in Steglitz Park.

One must try to keep spirits high.

Only yesterday
a loaf of bread was one hundred and forty billion marks
and crowds wiped out
Scheunenviertel’s Jewish stands.

A girl is crying in her mother’s arms,
I say, What’s wrong with you sweetheart?

My doll Seele got lost, Sir—
she babbles out.I tell her the doll didn’t get lost,
that I saw her leaving town,
that she gave me a letter for her,
that she seemed happy when she waved goodbye.

Her eyes sparkle as I promise to read it out loud
and her mother smiles approvingly:
we arrange to meet again, the following day.

Back at home I tell Dora about the little girl,
she says You are an adorable creature, Franz.

And Seele writes back everyday from afar,
and how delightful her travels are,
and how fascinating the wondrous people she meets,
and how fantastic all that prevents her from coming back,
and how exciting falling head over heels for a charming Doll,
and how thrilling setting off with him to a foreign land.

Three weeks after leaving Berlin
Seele’s last letter arrived.
I was taken up by guilt
but the little girl was almost happy,
enthralled by Seele’s adventures:
she hugged me and told me to wish her good luck.

In Berlin, days are grim
and whenever silence weighs down on me
I take a walk in Steglitz Park:
when I get back home
Dora always seems to find her way
around my heart.

(«The Writer and the Girl» first appeared in the Poetic Republic Poetry Competition E-book (, 2013 [USA])
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