Franz Kafka – Cool and Hard

Cool and hard is the day today.
The clouds congeal.
The winds are tugging ropes.
People congeal.
The steps sound metallic
On ore stones,
And the eyes see
Wide white lakes.

In the old little town there are
Small bright Christmas houses,
Their colorful windows look out
Over the snow-blown square.
On the moonlit square
A man walks silently in the snow,
His great shadow blown up
The houses by the wind.

People who walk across dark bridges,
Past saints
With dim candles.

Clouds that drift across a grey sky
Past churches
With towers in twilight.
A man leans against the ashlar parapet
And looks into the evening water,
Hands on old stones.

– Franz Kafka, translated from the German by Johannes Beilharz (© 2020)

(A poem by Franz Kafka (1883-1924) – who is, of course, not really known for poetry – which undoubtedly places him in the literary environment of expressionism. It is contained in a letter by Kafka dated November 9, 1903, in which the 20-year-old writes to his schoolmate Oskar Pollak about “some verses” that he might “read at a good hour”.)

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