text samples from SPUK & GEFLUNKER by Dominik Steiger


clear the table, put the jotters in the bag, leave the building. go up to the first thing in front of it and call out to it. it will understand. don't put the bag down at the first opportunity, keep on walking. take your time. already other things are waving and wiggling and acting familiar and calling you by name. you see, you're known here. did you think, my friend, you could pass by unrecognised. just listen to how they keep listening to each others' calls. this racket is in fact mutual compassion, the silence merely the shoestring that holds the business together.


a pig came along, its throat gaping slightly, but it could still trot. the butcher had obviously not managed to get a proper grip on it; now the injured animal comes wandering up to me and, pleading for help, looks me first in the one eye, then the other as well. i open up my thick coat where it conceals itself for now.

my ship sets out tomorrow. all that we load is hard tack and corned beef. i have forbidden any books. if i find any smart alecs smuggling them on board under their windcheaters or what have you i press their eyes inside out. in such cases it’s always better to look inwards.

one night, the last on land, we partied in the house of the merry shipmates. piggy was given a healing plaster and on top of that a natty collar. it danced on its hind trotters for the frank and honest group from my boat. which also included an emeritus professor who knew a good yarn or two. jollified, we set out to the beatific sea, off, through and beyond.


kneel. now the company of players troops out. kneel. living pyramids flanked by lions with hats. to the rear, behind the uncle's brass band. he had spent his entire fortune on the spectacle. he raises his cane, taps the ground twice and the acrobats break apart.

they now form a new figure, the rake. walking side by side they scrape open the square. a host of  earthen cerebellums appear beneath their feet, pulsating with worms representing the earth flows. the uncle watches the proceedings serenely and taps the ground twice more. with that the living rake prongs spread out so as to depict a fan. the gorgeous figure of the ensemble's mother keeps the branching ribs together, as if they were her children.

this time the lordly uncle is not satisfied. he is too fond of playing the patriarch, and gives the dominating mother a hefty thump on the back. at that a gaggle of snakes in her bouffant hair-do hiss their disapproval in return – not that this impresses the old geezer. a number of kneelers cry bravo, other kneelers disapprove of the criers and start to fight them. the brawl doesn't stop till night has fallen.

as a spectacle one can be happy with the show. but not as an analyst. the performance left too many questions open.


a red cross man and his accomplice go over and kill the unmarked man with a couple of stabs, take his papers, and set off to the printery. the printer was wary. he ladled out coffee and presented it with sweet tidbits.

a maronite entered the door, disturbed; his daughter had not returned from the watering place for all of an hour. he was somewhat bemused by the red cross on the strangers' coats. thinking it over, he lifted his shawl and showed them his brown cross; it had practically been traced onto the cloth by his spine. the four of them spontaneously embraced each other.

we were just coming up from the coast as the four were kissing one another, inflating their bearded cheeks and clicking their tongues in lust. that woke the nightingale in the lebanese cedar by the wall; it sighed, as if it had dreamt of black crosses. as always, as here: the last kiss was the best.

these fortuitous brothers went their various ways, each to his new stomping ground. the one to the stags in Golan, the second to another printery down in the valley, the third, the maronite to the four-figure girls' waterhole; left melanchton with his melon-cholia on his belt; that is a dish for all occasions. a shepherd saw him in the evening stirring his gruel under the waterfall. the following night he went and joined the rosicrucians in the unmarked cave.


beside the theatre the wardrobe store, the washing lines for clothes, nearby a trough with pork soup, complete with large metal ladles. a box for the electrics with a just plug on the front, a brook, a lime tree, a raft and the tethered dog; growl, just you dare.

this evening the one and the others come at a hop. the one with the eyes to the front, the other with eye-slits on the side. both with grey temples, the one greyed from within, the other tinted with silver pens. one piece per evening, a pile of dog muck per day. winging around them are ghosts with fluttering printed shawls which ne'er a philologist could decipher. meanwhile we are lying on the coal, blackening our faces;

we play the bogeyman in the old collapsing temple farce. the play begins. announce who you are.


a hundred metres further on the poet met the woman with the key. she invited him to tap it. the lever sank weightily onto the upholstered bed. With that laureatus left off in order to return to the partibus libris.

but no. a greater self was now stirring within him, or at any rate it pottered about inside much as it had once at Schnüfis.

much the same had happened at the forest cabin in Schnüfis. a milkmaid had put her pail down at his feet and right away snipped off his hair bag. both were now defenceless, just that the milkmaid’s milk still was in the pail while he was crestfallen. they agreed to take each other by the hand, their inner hands. the outer ones they too strove to unite but were thwarted by the resistance of two picture book characters who – oh my – each thought they were there in their own in-camera setting. a book lay open between them. sometimes he, sometimes she thumbed the pages aimlessly and – whoops – they found the magic cherry meant for both of them and that reminded them of their age-old family tree and transported them to it in three shakes.


from: Dominik Steiger: SPUK & GEFLUNKER, Ritter-Literatur, Klagenfurt, 2014, 183 p,                                Translation: Malcolm Green