Lives Journal 14

Herbert Kuhner




The Artist's Psyche:


Cain and Abel

as Siamese twin.



Al Capone and Bugs Moran


Whatever you do

don't get caught between

Al Capone and Bugs Moran.*  

In a gang war

there's no such thing

as an innocent bystander

who can survive.

It's dog eat dog,

plug or be plugged

rub out or be rubbed out.


You have a choice.

You've got to throw your lot in

with one or the other.

But there's no lesser of two evils. 

Both Capone and Moran

think nothing

of doing children in

if necessary.

Better hurry

and make your decision

unless you want to end up

in a plot

six-foot under.

it's either Capone or Moran

and there's no two ways about it.


Turn your fedora brim down

and your coat collar up,

put on your black gloves

and with gat in shoulder holster

and chopper in violin case

go out for a night on the town.


Just light your butt

and squeeze the trigger.


Shoot first

and don't ask questions later.


The Boss knows what he's doing. 

Keep your nose clean

and your lip buttoned

or you might find yourself

at the bottom of the Wabash.


There's still one hope

of going straight

and leaving a life of crime behind. 

After tiring of massacres

Al Capone and Bugs Moran*

might get together

for a Havana and a beer.



Black and White


I long for the clarity

of the good old

black and white B-westerns.


Good was good

and bad was bad.


The hero rode

a white horse

and wore a white hat.



Zlobnezh je jezdil chrnega

in nosil chrno.

Prvi je bil chisto obrit;

drugi je razkazoval

tenke brke nad zgornjo ustnico.


Vedel si, pri chem si,

belo je bilo belo,

chrno je bilo chrno

in sive ni bilo pri tem.


Napetost stopnjevana

z divjim zvokom in ritmom

in s treskom chinel,

ko so dobri in zlobni

obkrozhili iste stare skalne hribe.


In med revolverskimi boji

in pregoni

Gabby ali Fuzzy

kot zagotovljen komichni predah

z zhvechenjem tobaka.


Boji niso bili prelivanje krvi.

Mozhak je le padel

ob poku revolverja.

Nich razparanih srajc

in krogel, ki prebijajo meso

v pochasnem gibanju tehnikolorja.


Bilo je preprosto in chisto

in ni bilo nobenih afnarij.


Ob razkritju kart

je chrni dobil krajshi konec

boja z revolverji in pretepa s pestmi

in je bil izrochen sherifu

pred izginotjem slike.


Beli je zrushil chrnega

in to je bilo to.


The heavy rode black

and wore black.

The former was clean-shaven;

the latter sported

a slick mustache on upper lip.


You knew where you were at,

white was white,

black was black

and there was no grey about it.


Tension mounted

with frantic brass and rhythm

and the clash of cymbals

as goodies and baddies

circled the same old craggy hills.


And between gun battles

and chases

Gabby or Fuzzy

provided tobacco-chewing

comic relief.


The battles weren't bloodstained.

A man merely fell

at the crack of a gun,

No splattered shirts

and bullets piercing flesh

in technicolored slow motion.


It was simple and clean

and there was no monkey-business.


before the fade-out.

At the showdown

black got the short end

of the gun battle and fist fight

and was handed over to the sheriff


White had felled black

and that was that.


Potem je beli dvignil klobuk

pred prebivalci mesta,

rekel zbogom

Sally in njenemu ochku rancharju

in odjezdil v sonchni zahod,

Gabby ali Fuzzy pa v drncu za njim.



Playboy in Playboy


Sonce nikoli ne vdre

v visoko vzpeti grad.

Zavese so spushchene

okrog ure.

Ponochi in podnevi

je noch dolga ves dan.


To je gibljiv svet

na stalnem prostoru,


kjer se vse to zgodi,

to je

zgodi se, kar hochesh, da se zgodi,

in chesar nochesh, da se zgodi,

se ne zgodi,

to je

razen strojev

vse ostaja zunaj vzgiba.


Vse je tam.

Ni treba stopiti

onkraj velikih hrastovih vrat.


Obkrozhish lahko ves svet

na okrogli vrtljivi postelji

v mejah ene same sobe.


Ni voznega reda

razen voznega reda,

ki ga zhelish vsiliti.



Then white doffed his hat

to the towns folk,

said goodbye

to Sally and her rancher pa

and rode off in the sunset

with Gabby or Fuzzy trotting behind.



Playboy and Playboy


The sun never intrudes in

the high-rise castle. 

The blinds are drawn

around the clock.

Night and day

it’s night all day long.


It's a mobile world

in a stationary location,

a micro-microcosm

where it all happens,

that is

what you want to happen happens

and what you don't want to happen

doesn't happen,

that is,

unless the machinery

gets out of whack.


It's all there.

No need to go beyond

the great oak doors.


You can be taken around the world

on the round rotating bed

in the confines of one room.


There's no schedule

other than the schedule

you wish to impose.


You can order a snack

whenever you're in the mood. 

There's a day and night shift

in the kitchen and the bar

and waitresses are always on call.

All you have to do

is ring for service.


The Grand Master's standby

is Pepsi and a burger.

That may be junk and juvenile fare –

not exactly Nectar and Ambrosia,

but what follows is a gourmet dish

worthy of being served to the Gods.


The dish that carries the tray

serves herself up for dessert.


Seconds aren't a problem.

One dessert can be followed by another,

and if you want to gorge,

you can enjoy more then one at a time.


Everything's as easy as pie,

and as smooth as silk.


No cumbersome deflorations.

No inconvenient monthlies.

No specter of pregnancy.


No need to worry about

varicose veins,



or discolored skin.


Playmates don't age;

they're interchangeable.


Under that roof

there's an endless field

of undraped floral fauna

too spacious to plow through.

and there’s a glass-bottomed pool

more exotic than any aquarium.


The Grand Master lives our fantasies. 

He's materialized our dreams.


Pepsi and burgers are at hand

for those of us

who can't get beyond the moat,

and as for the rest is concerned,

an ersatz can almost

bring it within reach.


The object in question

is a slice of creampuff porn,

sugared and spiced just right

and adorned with a bunting

of intellectual stimuli.


As far as action is concerned,

the best we ordinary mortals can do

is unfold the centerfold

when we're alone

and have an imaginary go

at Miss This Month.



Movie Star


She had her

hairline raised,

crow's feet erased,

cheeks botexed,

nose bobbed,

mouth reshaped,

teeth capped,

double-chin removed,

waist narrowed,

breasts built up,

stomach flattened,

buttocks lifted,

thighs thinned out,

and for good measure,

the corns excised from her toes

but she can't be filmed in the nude,

not due to modesty,

but because

she's covered with tattoos.



Selection and translation into Slovenian by Ivo Antich



HERBERT KUHNER, Austrian-American poet, writer, translator, writing in English and in German: poetry, novels, drama, essays on art and film, and translations. Born in Vienna in 1935, emigrated with his parents to the US in 1939, grew up in the US and graduated from Columbia University, New York. He returned to Vienna in 1963. (note by ed. I. A.)



* (B. Moran – Amer. gangster, Capone's main rival; fedora – hat brand; Wabash – a river in the USA; n. by transl.)