“The Inevitable Waits” by Friedrich Dürrenmatt

Black Lawrence Press, 2010

THE INEVITABLE WAITS

(translated by Daniele Pantano)

The inevitable waits

It’s not coming. You are

You are the mouse. So

Don’t be a hero

When for the fearless

Even the avoidable

Is unavoidable

Fear. Stay human

What belongs to you, doesn’t

What belongs to all, does

The right thoughts

They are friendly

Even when they seem hostile

You cannot think them alone

You cannot check them alone

You don’t strike on them alone

Alone you appear in front of them alone

They are your judges and ours

We are wrong and you, not they

Love their verdict, use it

Perhaps then the dark animal

Lolling under a bed

Or purring, crouched by a street

Will perform humanely

Its inhuman day’s work

And not devour you

In a gas chamber

Friedrich Dürrenmatt (1921-1990) is commonly seen not only as the most prominent Swiss novelist, playwright, and essayist of the twentieth century but as one of the most influential authors of modern literature.

Daniele Pantano is a Swiss poet, translator, critic, and editor born of Sicilian and German parentage in Langenthal (Canton of Berne). His most recent works include The Possible Is Monstrous: Selected Poems by Friedrich Dürrenmatt and The Oldest Hands in the World (both from Black Lawrence Press, 2010). His next books, Oppressive Light: Selected Poems by Robert Walser and The Collected Works of Georg Trakl, are forthcoming from Black Lawrence Press, New York. For more information, please visit http://www.danielepantano.ch.

[The above translation is reprinted here with permission of the translator.]

THE INEVITABLE WAITS

The inevitable waits

It’s not coming. You are

You are the mouse. So

Don’t be a hero

When for the fearless

Even the avoidable

Is unavoidable

Fear. Stay human

What belongs to you, doesn’t

What belongs to all, does

The right thoughts

They are friendly

Even when they seem hostile

You cannot think them alone

You cannot check them alone

You don’t strike on them alone

Alone you appear in front of them alone

They are your judges and ours

We are wrong and you, not they

Love their verdict, use it

Perhaps then the dark animal

Lolling under a bed

Or purring, crouched by a street

Will perform humanely

Its inhuman day’s work

And not devour you

In a gas chamber

About Okla Elliott

I am currently an assistant professor at Misericordia University in northeast Pennsylvania. I hold a PhD in comparative literature from the University of Illinois, an MFA in creative writing from Ohio State University, and a legal studies certificate from Purdue University. My work has appeared in Cincinnati Review, Harvard Review, The Hill, Huffington Post, Indiana Review, The Literary Review, New Letters, Prairie Schooner, A Public Space, and Subtropics, as well as being listed as a "notable essay" in Best American Essays 2015. My books include From the Crooked Timber (short fiction), The Cartographer’s Ink (poetry), The Doors You Mark Are Your Own (a coauthored novel), Blackbirds in September: Selected Shorter Poems of Jürgen Becker (translation), and Bernie Sanders: The Essential Guide (nonfiction).
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