Instructions for laughing at a distance - Ulrike Almut Sandig

first the bad news: everything that is everything to you will shrink to the size of an insect on the fastened window.

but it will do that even if you don’t follow this guide.

now this should be where the good news should come.

but do we know who will still be there after this guide to laughing at a distance? the insect or Lynn's ex, or Lynn or her ancient, laughing parents?

and now for the good news: screw all the magnificent avenues and squares. we will meet each other in forests. all the oxygen will make us totally high.

and we will walk at a bit of a distance: hands loose at our sides, right foot back, left foot back. and so on.

it will be a whole new feeling to watch nature as it smoothly overtakes you.

in the bark of a tree we will scratch: Lynn was here.

in the bark of another tree we will read: come here = go away!

we will spell out the cheerfulness between the trees, and this is how it will be: bend down briefly. wash your hands in the leaves. sing Happy Birthday twice.

Happy Birthday to you, squashed tomatoes and stew. I’ve got your presents, and your cake too.

now the laughter should already be noticeable. most people feel a distinct tickle in the larynx. right here.

Happy Birthday, Lynn! we will shout and burst into laughter at the answer in the echo of the trees.

and there it is, like being high again. but not because of all that oxygen around you, but because you can hardly catch your breath for laughter.

slowly, it starts to feel like you’re trying to breathe through a straw. some deal with that better than others.

but more than anything, it’s an infectious laugh that gradually spreads to all of us, until the whole forest is quivering in a single great laughter.

in the end you will be lying on the ground just laughing a little until you really can’t anymore.

the real challenge is not to stop laughing. humour is when you laugh anyway.

this can also be done lying down.

laughing, you’ll look up at the outline of the laughing sun. dark and small, it hovers like a laughing insect over the crowns of the trees.

and that is both good news and bad.


Translated by Karen Leeder


Lyrical Lockdown, queering Quarantine: ‘Taking something seriously does not mean getting down about it’ is an online collection of poetry from quarantine, originally from the online forum of the poetry magazine Das Gedicht. Sandig’s poem was first published in German in the blog of the Literaturforum im Brechthaus.


Live Event: Thursday 11th June 2020, 5.00pm-6.00pm

Watch Live Event here 

Voices from the Wings: Poetry, Performance and Translation on and off the page

This event presents a conversation between academic, translator and writer Karen Leeder and poet, performer and novelist Ulrike Almut Sandig who have been collaborating for the last eight years. Karen and Ulrike were due to appear together with Sandig’s poetry band LANDSCHAFT (with Grigory Semenchuk) at the Big Tent! in May 2020.