Printer Friendly

The manure pile.

In memory it became something like a home to me.

--Giacomo Leopardi

(The manure pile first appeared to me as a wagonload of straw on the periphery of a vineyard: Schonbrunn-palace-yellow, was my immediate reaction. Its color was what first caught my eye; only then did I see the horseshit in the straw.)
 Sclaonbrunn-palace-yellow wagonload of straw. Interspersed
just a little with horse manure. More compelled by the desire: To meld
with blue of Sunday. To rise up into the sky. (Plowed into the sky:) To
make the sky fertile: clover-field-green. 

(Compelled: were I to combine the color of the manure pile with that of the sky, then I would bring an end to Sunday.)

(To rise up: The French word for manure is le fumier and la fumee means smoke. And I saw the wisp of smoke, the way it rose up from the manure pile, but still from another, darker, remembered heap whose color never would have offered praise to heaven in that way. And I think about Pierre Riviere, concerning whom a female witness testified (I'll cite) that he once, helped by his grandmother, was carting manure; instead of putting it at the foot of another manure pile (as his father had told him to), he attempted to drive the loaded horsecart to the top of the pile. The pile was approximately three feet high and furthermore it was on the edge of a hollow. She, the witness, told the accused that he would kill his horse, and he answered: I said that the horse was going to make the climb, and it must do so. You're going to climb up there, he told his horse, for I have said you must. And indeed he drove his horse violently and managed to get the cart on top of the manure pile; the horse was crushed to death.)

(When I write, I collect words into a heap of language that resembles the pile of manure; perhaps by way of the manure pile I'll gain some clarity concerning the sky of Sunday, coming from the undergrowth.)

(Coming from the undergrowth, what caught my attention after the color of the manure pile was its structure: for the Schonbrunn-palace- yellow wagonload of straw, perhaps collected from the stalls of the courtly riding school, hardly stunk at all.)

Coming from the undergrowth: determined by its structure.

Is the manure pile: its greater thickening.

Interspersed with shit: here, not excessively, with horseshit.

Soaked with urine: moderately, because it looks dry.

Its compression to a mixture: weighty in itself.

Congealed to a color: Schonbrunn-palace-yellow, but still barely applicable.

(Applied to a wall, it would hardly stick: moderately impasto.) Yet in transition toward painting: insofar as direction still applies to painting.

Coarse and fine enough.
 Therefore resembling the undergrowth. Piles up the manure
pile: straw instead of branches. Holds out: bristly at the edges.
Burdens it: its own shit, trodden down. And without stems, covering
interstice. Is also close to decay, still closer. The earth: it rots
beneath the blue of heaven. (Is here moderately rotted: strawlike.)
 It is heavy, soft, fertile, amassed. Yet a mass whose resistance has
long been defeated. With stalks broken into little pieces: digested
stalks and urine. Mashed-up into manure: shining yellow. Not that it
stinks very much: a most moderate pile of manure. Even when (as in early
spring): the first flies clamber upward (like the smoke, like the horse,
like my thoughts) the first flies surround it with faint buzzing
(barely) setting it to music. 

(If the earth is closer, thus lacking stems and (if only moderately) decayed, thus lacking the distance that could allow them, the earth and the manure pile, to reflect one another within one another, then the weight that bears down is also not imaginable as something related to the manure pile (as the embroidery to the undergrowth). There are two ways for it to go: it dematerializes, becoming one with the sky of Sunday, or it joins itself to the manure pile, becoming its weight.) It's the sky that weighs down on Sunday.

 Irreconcilable reconciliation: The manure pile. Manure through
and through. Weighs down. 

The manure pile lies in Swiss villages, in Flasch or Jenins, on the street, next to the entrance, in front of the house. With this assessment it changes its place, its color, its kind, it becomes a fixture and memorable. (In the recreational areas of the city it is forbidden as such, according to a landlady in Neustift, it would disturb the strollers with its smell.)

As "shite-heape" I found the manure pile today in Johann Heinrich Zedler's Great Complete Universal Lexicon (in the reading room of the National Library):

"Manure piles are of two kinds: 1) Where in a farmyard there is insufficient space for an extensive manure hollow, the waste will be thrown together into a high pile, which in summer one must sometimes stir and turn over, not otherwise than as if one wanted to dig one's way through it, so that the waste will better decompose, and all the more efficiently and advantageously serve as fertilizer. 2) Fields are tended in such a way that the manure is spread upon cultivated patches in small piles of equal consistency and at equal distances to one another."

From this "shite-heape" I came, at the same place, to "shite-hollow."

Meaning: "that place where the waste from animal stalls is collected and thrown over a rise. The manure collection area should lie somewhat deeper than the rest of the farmyard, and should slope down with respect to all locations, so that rainwater will flow inward to the manure and not outward to the rest of the yard, taking the potencies of the manure and inevitably the best part of the straw with it. Where, however, too much water is retained in this area, and the manure, especially when only straw is thrown into it, does not decompose well but instead actually rots and hardens, then the otherwise beneficial cow-manure, as it lies in the resultant marsh, loses its effectiveness compared to manure that is not so inundated. Where the manure collection area lacks a solid, gravelly ground, then either it should be paved on one side with large stones or bridged with cut timber so that the manure can be more easily drawn out by horses or oxen; for manure can cause the ground to become soggy and marshy to a deep level, seriously damaging any pathway through it, and often bringing to grief any draft animal led there."

(A manure pile fenced with planks reminds me of the slope (yet only as slope, not as place) against which it is supported, of the grass that covered the wastewater-drenched earth below in luxuriant tufts, and of the hiding place behind it: I huddled next to the planking on one side, the wastewater on the planking having dried out and turned pale, almost ivory-colored, the color of the undergrowth.)

(Similarly I remember a plank lying in the sodden filth as an overpass or footbridge to the yard (yet only as yard, not as place), how it became for me the epitome of forgetfulness: I stood beneath a canopy and recognized myself in the filth-dampened plank.)
 Once more coming from the undergrowth. (That, cut back,
lies--is stored--on the side of the road.) Is its continuation: a bit
further on the way. A heap of manure: as such (a fixture) forbidden.
Withdrawn from the landscape: removed from consciousness. In favor of an
unthinking breathing. Of a proceeding without destination.
 (Called into memory.)
Fresh: surrounded by a concrete wall. It smelled: like your sex. Is
almost dark brown: like your dress. Was so warm: and greeted me.
Embraced with your odor: stench or scent. (That I fecundated myself like
that. Greeted like that as only by you: come! Allowed myself to be
warmly greeted.)
Stench or scent. It is its first form: its first greeting. It is barely
amassed: to a heap of manure. To distribute itself again: in the morning

(On cooler mornings or on colder days the warmth of the stables from the urine-soaked manure rises up as steam: the manure pile smoked.) A giant peace pipe for welcoming beside the door.

(And at the same time the fear that the farmer's loud cursing could strike me dead.

And the barking of the dogs was equivalent to their snapping at me and the stamping of the steers a trampling.

I fetched the milk and delivered the Messenger (a religious monthly that I brought to the farmer's wife.)
 The manure pile comes from the fields. The meadows: it is
their concentration. Atomization, disintegration, accumulation. Through
the mechanism of the mower. Through the digestive systems of the cows.
Through working with a pitchfork. (The act of cleaning-out and
flinging-upon-a-pile.) It is a compressed form of landscape. Its essence
made into a smell. (I breathe the landscape with it.) It is the
landscape's most secret transfer point. A produce market of utmost
purity. (Only language: a saturated mixture of atomized and digested
prose, decomposed at its top only to the extent that language has always
processed manure.) 

(Or: a cultural site like the National Library, for example.)
 Less fresh, it starts to form a crust. Its vital liquids have
evaporated or seeped away. All throughout the manure pile: flowing. Over
the slightly tilted concrete floor. Into and out of the gutter. Into the
cesspit or, as some call it, the liquid manure pit. The manure pile
internalized. It passes through itself. (Driving the life within it
forward: the death.) Sweating it out below: cooling at the top. Though
sometimes churned up by the digging the pecking of the chickens warmed
by the sun's rays. (This is its noonday.)
 It broods, putrefies, Dissolves itself with its own essence: its
essences. (No cock that now crows: no stalk that now stirs.) It seeps
silently throughout itself. Down alongside the millions of stalks. (My
empathy first takes the easier way: that of fluidity.)
Through its increasingly thick layers. Seeps, after the grasses in their
millions forced the water into the air and the cows filled their four
stomachs with it, thoroughly soaking the strewn straw with their urine.
Down and out: silent, trickling. Only the quiet buzzing of flies. And
that only a little. 

(At that moment I'd already drunk the milk, the peasant's wife had already paged through the Messenger and placed it in the bin for newspapers, the farmer slept, the cows were lying already in the shadows.) (The manure pile is the fifth of the cows' four stomachs: after the men, reticulum, omasum, and abomasum, after the long and narrow passage through the intestine, after the deposition around the stall comes the final, longest act which takes place once again in the open. It is the digestive organ of the pile, the artificial stomach, the second omasum of the landscape's self-renewal process. Yet while the first, with its folds moving against one another (like book pages), extracts the fluid contained in the foodstuff, the manure pile effortlessly allows it to seep away: it digests the digested, mixed in with straw.)
 At no point here: Does the landscape allow itself to proceed
like this. To appear like this: a heap of manure. To be transformed like
this in a process of devotion. (Thus counterposed to the undergrowth.)
Yet from the side of a concrete enclosure: One plank leads: into its
center. A path in the manure.
 It accumulates itself in multiples. (A multiply-piled pile. Like: a
multiply-stemmed stem.) Is laid down in various piles. (Of assorted
ages.) Downtrodden and kept moist. Wheelbarrow-loads of manure. (I saw
the farmer's son turning over the manure from the plank onto the
most recent pile. I saw him stamping down the manure, but never saw the
farmer soaking the manure with wastewater. I saw the farmer's wife
throwing kitchen trash onto the manure pile.) And that kitchen trash.
(Lying atop the manure pile: leaves of lettuce, cucumber and apple
The liquid manure pit is covered with planks. The liquid manure ferments
in darkness: beneath the planks. (In semi-darkness: light falls through
the cracks and knotholes.) It ferments into a brew of urine and
waste-essence. (Into pressed manure: it's the wine In its cellar:
in a covered concrete pit.) Otherwise with its covering slid back the
manure pit lies open. (I stood at its edge and looked down, with the
limitless fear of falling in.) The liquid manure is heavy: a heavy wine.
ft has a rich bouquet: a thick scent. So thick that it appears to be
solid. (I regarded it with the desire to submit to this illusion: to
sink into sheer nutritiousness.) Like hardly any other liquid, it offers
no mirror to the sky.
(On the other side glistens the manure.) Freshly upon the pile: as if
the pitchfork were still flashing. Its flanks glisten: as if it were
covered in sweat. The glow of evening: as if the farmer were reconciled
with it. In this way the manure pile offers to the evening an image of
peace. In the process of peaceful decay: it comprehends itself. And
glittering at the edges: in brilliant decline. Song of the blackbird,
dance of the flies: crisscrossed with swallows. (I must return to its
vicinity. In order to die more easily.)
The manure pile steams in the rain. At its innermost, it is warm. It
warms itself and steams. Ferments: disintegrates itself. Sets itself and
coagulates. Does not remain: at any standstill. Returns the rain as
steam. Or: otherwise than the undergrowth. It does not endure: thus in
decay. It rots as a mixture (one more time): Of feces and straw: of
crushed straw. Of urine and feces: absorbed urine. Stuck-together feces:
as manure. Heaped up high. 

"that it comes to lie at the right height, so that the bottommost part may putrefy all the sooner, which does not occur so readily when it lies scattered here and there; which is why the haybale, which the livestock drags about in the yard, or otherwise crumbles up, ought to be repeatedly shoveled together and thrown upon the manure pile, especially during rainy weather or when the farmhands have nothing else to do: for the thinly scattered hay will only slowly turn to decomposed manure, because it is mostly dry and consequently lacking in the requisite dampness."

(Johann Heinrich Zedler, Great Complete Universal Lexicon)
 Therefore no weave-work: no embroidery. A mixture: of sterns,
crumbled up. (Cut up, ground up, chewed, digested.) And the work rather
similar to the reading of thrown stalks. A labor of collecting: of
manure, thrown upon the pile. Upon the pile, the pile continues to
crumble. (As micro-organic decomposition.) A labor of decomposition: of
fibers. Broken open: torn down and rebuilt. In: min- er- als.
 The manure pile burns innermost. (As the collected stalks: burn.) Yet
burning up is not its last will. It decomposes itself increasingly from
top to bottom. Yet breaking into little pieces does not ultimately
define it. (Refinement is not the goal of its language.) How it so
easily cast a spell on me. Meaning: brought me to burn again.
Downtrodden: as it is. (As I am: hence the desire (for it doesn't
allow footsteps to sound so that they reverberate from below) to drive a
horse up on it.)
It remains lying there: over the years. It grows cold: its innermost
burned out. Gives up its labor: having decomposed itself into humus.
It's still only a pile: slowly overgrown with grass. (Thus I saw it
in its concrete enclosure beside grandmother's stable in Eschen:
grandfather reclining on the sofa in the upstairs room, smoking one
cigarette after another. He bequeathed a stable full of chopped wood: a
high heap of wood hacked (as if: finely woven) into little pieces.)
The manure pile turns into its own grave mound. (When the farmer curses
no longer.) (When the Messenger is no longer delivered.) (When its poem
reaches no readership.) Yet its last will is to be distributed: broadly.
(After accumulation, distribution to the wide world.)
It gathered itself: into a heap. (Into a collected self-heap. As: into a
collected self-dander-raising.) In order to then disperse itself: to
abandon its concrete enclosure. In order to be loaded up, all
disintegrated (as: finely cut, finely woven). And taken around (as on
Sunday, when we brought you out). With pitchforks and manure wagons (the
damp manure clinging to boots). On an excursion after lying and
fermenting for months on end. (After knitting and praying for months on

"When one wants to fertilize the fields with the dung of livestock, one should utilize fresh manure: for the fresher and newer, and properly decompos. ed without long stalks of straw beneath it, the better and thicker the grass the grows from it. But of all the varieties of livestock dung, sheep manure is peculiarly the best; lacking this, one should utilize horse and cow dung, mixed together with oven soot, poultry or pigeon droppings, or floor sweepings, street or yard filth, garden cuttings, and so on, letting these lie on top all winter long, so that one soaks completely into the other, freezing and ripening, and subsequently spreading it in springtime over the entire area of the fields."

(Johann Heinrich Zedler, Great Complete Universal Lexicon)
 And thus disintegrated once again: torn apart. Loaded up into
a heap and thrown around. Or: passed through a wolf and disseminated.
Coloring the landscape: thickened into color. Brownish the pale meadows,
the fields. Brown the first or last snow.
 Spread about, it gives itself back to the landscape It will be plowed
into it: into the cultivated soil. Before it gives itself further: as
odor. "for the air draws out the manure so much that almost nothing
remains of it but straw." (Johann Heinrich Zedler, Great Complete
Universal Lexicon)
Or mixed with wastewater: it will be sprayed. Splashed into a bucket
and: over the fields. Over the molehills: in a wide arc. Fanned out:
with an open-armed gesture. (Laid to rest with the words: This is my
manure. This is my wine.) And seeps some more: thus diluted. Or with the
snow: when it melts. Or with the rain: when it rains. Seeps into the
The tractor's roar and the springtime sun: by which its odor even
before the grasses or like the sap in the bushes (the undergrowth) (or
like the warmth from your coat) is raised into the air: that it yield a
warm scent. (After spring, becoming innermost to me as, with the first
warmth of the sun, I breathed deeply of the spread manure on the way
from Bovel to Jenins.) 

(If they could have but dissociated themselves and scattered across the landscape instead of taking everything, in the German hand.)
 Offside from the manure pile: in the city. It's now
nearest to me: so close. As if I could smell it (your brown warmth).
(Fleeting thought: I smell the stall outdoors.) As if every step here
could be one step. (If it rains today: a hint of spring.) One step on
the way from Bovel to Jenins. (Past the manure pile in Rofels.) As if I
would come finally to the more essential. Meaning: closer to death.
Meaning: closer to the moment. That rings out: it is brought to
 The manure pile. Near in memory: yet untouched. Not that being touched
was ever the point. (Nonetheless touched: as if the word was what
touched.) Situated in this moment: this breath. Where I breathe its
breath. Where its odor is released.
It lies in the rain: no steam. (Neither dark brown nor
Schonbrunn-palace-yellow.) Is merely silent: no prayer. Among the
rustlings in the rain. The crackling (of the plastic tarps). The
stamping (of the cows in the stable). (I have always lived life. As
lived, always neglected: Until this moment. Until this pile of manure.)
The manure pile (crows like a cock).
(Fallen into neglect:)
It has overflowed its enclosure. The surrounding ground has been
softened. The hoofprints are filled with wastewater. The straw lapses
into slime. (As if I'd seen it that way already.) 

Translated by Andrew Joron
COPYRIGHT 2013 University of Chicago
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2013 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Donhauser, Michael
Publication:Chicago Review
Article Type:Critical essay
Geographic Code:4EUAU
Date:Jan 1, 2013
Previous Article:Introduction to rhyme: its history and theory.
Next Article:From What Andreas Baader Said.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2018 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters