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Tear the World Apart

Posted on 2006.10.06 at 13:06

“Ich möcht die Welt zerreißen, sie Stück für Stück zerglißen.”
–Das Ich, RE-Animat
Sometimes in the most unexpected place, I find a key that opens a door to a world of beautiful horror. I recently read the header for one of Elizabeth Bear’s blog entries, and nearly fell out of my chair when I saw she had quoted and was listening to Das Ich's “RE-Animat.”   I never would have guessed that this gifted, “transgressive,” science fiction/fantasy writer would be familiar with this German Industrial band. She seems so sweet and “normal” in person, and is indeed a warm and funny woman with a formidable intellect.   (Apologies to Ms. Bear for calling her “transgressive,” I mean it in the best possible sense of the overused word.). 
I've been into Gothic/Industrial music for a decade and a half, and saw Das Ich play in LA a couple years ago. It was a thrilling, savage experience. The verse she quoted, with the little German I know, translates to--"I would tear the world apart, ripping it piece by piece." It sounds so much more apocalyptic when growled auf Deutch, and what a great metaphor for the editorial experience! Apparently the lyrics of that album were heavily influenced by the German Expressionist poet, Gottfried Benn. I never would have discovered his poetry if I hadn’t read Ms. Bear’s post and gone on a quest to track down Das Ich’s lyrics online. Benn’s poetry is visceral, horrifying and hauntingly beautiful. A bit reminiscent, albeit more grotesque, of Rilke’s poetry. Here are a few examples of Benn’s horrors and wonders:
Der Einsame Backzahn einer Dime
die unbekannt verstorben war,
trug eine Goldplombe.
Die übrigen waren wie auf stille Verabredung
Den schlug der Leichendiener sich heraus,
wesetzte ihn und ging für tanzen.
Denn, sagte er,
nur Erde solle zur Erde werden.
The lone molar of a whore
who had died unknown
had a gold filling.
As if by silent agreement
all the others had fallen out.
But this one, the mortician knocked out
and pawned to go dancing.
For, he said,
only earth should return to earth.

Auf “Mann und Frau Gehn Durch die Krebsbarake”
Hier schwillt der Acker schon un jedes Bett.
Fleisch ebnet sich zu Land. Glut gibt sich fort.
Saft schickt sich an zu rinnen. Erde ruft.
From “Man and Woman go through the Cancer Ward”
Here the grave already swells around every bed.
Flesh levels into land. The blaze gives itself away.
Juice begins to flow. Earth beckons.

Auf jedem Tish zwei. Mann und Weiber
kreuzweis. Nah, nackt, und dennoch ohne Qual.
Den Schädel auf. Die Brust entzwei. Die Lieber
gebaren nun ihr allerletztes Mal.
Jeder drei Näpfe voll: von Jim bus Hoden.
Und Gottes Tempel und des Teufels Stall
nun Brust an Brust auf eines Kubels Boden
begrinsen Golgotha und Sundenfall.
Der Rest in Särge. Lauter Neugeburten:
Mannsbeine, Kinderbrust und Haar vom Weib.
Ich sah, von zweien, die dereinst sich hurten,
lag es da, wie aus einem Mutterleib.
Two on each slab, Men and women
crosswise. Near, naked, and yet without agony.
The skull up. The torso split in two. The lovers
now give birth to their final sign.
Each fill three basins: from brains to balls.
And God’s temple and the Devils lair
now lie side by side in a bucket of slop,
sneering at Golgotha and man’s fall.
The remainder in coffins. Real newborns:
Men’s legs, a child’s torso, and the hair of a woman.
I saw, from two, who at one time rutted,
something lying there, as from one womb.

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