Michelle Steinbeck

Translated by Jen Calleja


drunk with sleep he tells me about his dream

you were pregnant after all
and then it was nearly time
and i was at the hospital
you came out
and i didn’t even ask how it went
and what it was

but we were quite happy

we went inside and there was the child
it could already speak and said
hi hello
we laughed and i said to it
it said them right back
then it crawled around
in the common room
there were so many places it could fall over and i got worked up about it
how could they have been so inconsiderate?

then the child became smaller and smaller
until it was an insect
a butterfly
a moth
a tiny spider
and it ran and fluttered and flew out the window

a ward nurse came and said
that can happen sometimes
when they’re that small
i hit her
and apologised

five or six months later
lots and lots of people on the lawn in front of the hospital
we’re searching in the weeds for the child
square centimetre by square centimetre

i’d dreamt that i really wanted an iced coffee and i just didn’t get one

from Eingesperrte Vögel singen mehr copyright Voland & Quist (2018)

grandmotherly wisdom

on a saturday afternoon


i’m not going to choir anymore

they sing nothing but love songs




i never would have 

been able to move in with two men

i’ve never had such a 

straightforward relationship with men

they’ve always fallen in love with me

and the other way around too.

at the cafe


i have to change seats because the men are staring 

they lean out the car staring

drive into the wall where they stack up

busted bodywork man mush


it’s full moon

it’s ovulation 


i'm in a monastery so I can write

on the way I saw two gorgeous men

and one interesting one


Michelle Steinbeck is a Swiss author, curator and editor. Her first novel, My Father was a Man on Land and a Whale in the Water was published in 2016 (Lenos) and nominated for the Swiss and German Book Prizes. Jen Calleja's English translation was published in 2018 by Darf Publishers. Her poetry collection Eingesperrte Vögel singen mehr ('Birds in a cage sing more') was published in 2018 by Voland & Quist.


Jen Calleja is a literary translator from German and a writer. Her debut poetry collection, Serious Justice, is published by Test Centre.