Pandemic Files

The Day After This Day

Matthias Göritz, Mary Jo Bang
Image of COVID-19 virus. Graphic by Bianca Ibarlucea.
Graphic by Bianca Ibarlucea

Daytime
Overnight

The one overview is missing
(Write) it goes backwards

over time

Flat
after the beaten-down karate-chop houses

I’m off to see people living the life
on the edge of the breaking day

Caribou Coffee with moo juice
deep penetrations of sleep

behind the forehead is an error-prone (very mensch-like)
ego-I

Out the door goes
the man with the apple turnover

Sounds as flotsam
While reading is dead in today’s paper …

I stand up
look at me, I’m off to see

how the city gets itself up


A note from translator Mary Jo Bang:

Matthias Göritz’s poem wasn’t written in a pandemic but it speaks to the sense of isolation that is now, as we all remain inside, even more felt. It also reminds us, with subtle humor and narrative abbreviation, of the ego-I’s tenuous relationship to the external world. Like the speaker in the poem, before the pandemic, we might have begun a day with a coffee somewhere, our eye catching the obit page of an open newspaper: the formulaic “[famous name] is dead” renewing our sense that, for all of the world’s myriad endings, we are still beginning, daily, over and over. It is that intrinsic binary existence, of which the pandemic has only made us more acutely aware, that the poem captures so well: there is us, seemingly alone, and then there’s the world that contains us and which also begins, daily, again and again. The two can’t be teased apart.

Matthias Göritz is the author of three volumes of poetry, two novellas and three novels—including Der kurze Traum des Jakob Voss (The Short Dream of Jakob Voss), winner of the Hamburg Literature Prize, Radio Bavaria Prize, and the Mara Cassens Prize, and Parker. He teaches in the comparative literature department at Washington University.
Mary Jo Bang is the author of many volumes of poetry, including A Doll for Throwing: Poems, Elegy, and a translation of Purgatorio.
Originally published:
May 12, 2020

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