donal mclaughlin

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7_Pedro_Lenz_farbig_quer_2_mediumPedro Lenz (born in Switzerland in 1965) is best known for his poems, Die Welt ist ein Taschentuch (X-Time 2002), and a hilarious fake guide to Swiss provincial literature, Das Kleine Lexikon der Provinzliteratur (bilgerverlag 2005). His latest book is a collection of ‘banal stories’ – or ‘Banale Geschichten’, as the subtitle would have it: Plötzlech hets di am Füdle (Cosmos 2009). A brilliant performer of his work – with Poetry Slam successes and fast-selling CDs to prove it – Lenz spent six months in Glasgow in 2005 as the first Swiss writer to benefit from the (then) new exchange with Berne. The translations presented here were performed at various bilingual readings during that residency.

You can find more information on Pedro Lenz on his website:


Five Poems

Pedro Lenz


on the way home we were,
you started on about her.

And by the time we knew
that she has fine
white skin, and that
her breasts are small and beautiful,
by the time we’d learned
that sometimes, afterwards,
she has to cry,
but just silently and
just a wee bit, like,
by the time we knew all that,
you’d reached the point
you’d lost her.

That right, Franz?
Ya eejit, Franz? You now know
you should’ve kept
your mouth shut.


In my memory it’s as if
it was always winter,
all those years, only ever winter.
We drove to work.
It was always still dark.
The lorry had two
benches at the back.
We sat opposite one another,
leaning forward,
our lower arms resting
on our knees.
I was the youngest,
listened to them saying nothing,
saying nowt myself.
I’ve forgotten
their faces.
Can just see
their hands, all those strong,
still hands.
Some were holding fags
or flasks
or sandwiches, all wrapped-up.
Others were just hingin there, empty.
That was all I could see:
twelve or fourteen hands.
And mostly I wished
the journey would last forever,
forever and ever,
in those two rows of seats
in an old Ford Transit.


to give you an example,
he planted onions.
At some point, later,
he had to give
the garden up.
The piece of land
behind the flats
was tarmacked over.

Now he has
a parking space
with yellow lines round it.
Every Saturday,
he sweeps his space clean
with a brush.

If his son were ever to visit,
he’d appreciate
this dedicated parking space.


Nando, it was, told us,
a local.

From up there,
from the lighthouse
at Santander,
from the cliff behind it.
to be more exact,
many’s a dogowner
throws the dog they’ve tired of
down onto the rocks.

It happens mainly at night.
The dogs die with a thud.
The tide washes the bodies away.

Nando told us too
how in the Spanish Civil War
not just dogs
but people –
maybe I caught him wrong but

after all,  the wind from the sea
was blowing, loud and cold


Roco belonged
to this slaughterhouse worker
from somewhere near Madiswil.

Fat and happy
from eating so much meat,
short-legged and above all
short of breath, the two of them were.

1977, I think it was.
The dog, at the wheels of a lorry.
The man, of a stroke.

Published as part of: D McLaughlin, ‘Mitbringsel’ in: J Charnley & M J Pender (ed.), Exercises in Translation. Swiss-British Cultural Interchange, Peter Lang, Berne 2006

Original poems in: P Lenz, Die Welt ist ein Taschentuch, Verlag X-Time, Berne 2002

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