Bertolt Brecht and Walter Benjamin playing chess, Denmark, Skovsbostrand, 1934
On the Terms of Exile
No need to drive a nail into the wall
To hang your hat on;
When you come in, just drop it on the chair
No guest has sat on.
Don't worry about watering the flowers —
In fact, don't plant them.
You will have gone back home before they bloom,
And who will want them?
If mastering the language is too hard,
Only be patient;
The telegram imploring your return
Won't need translation.
Remember, when the ceiling sheds itself
In flakes of plaster,
The wall that keeps you out is crumbling too,
As fast or faster.
Translated from the German by Adam Kirsch