Manfred Kyber - Porcelain

Porcelain is so pure, so white and cool that one can barely believe how alive it can become, and so are many things in life that look like porcelain. At daytime it stands there, mute and stiff and delicate but when the sun has gone down and the last lamps have gone out in the dusk, the porcelain breathes a deep breath in the blue moonlight and starts to move and speak. And porcelain also has it that the biggest snouts talk the most. But that is not always good at all.

The moonshine is so dull today, an old coffee pot said who had a big and pointed snout and had a tendency to criticism. Old coffee pots often have pointed snout and a tendency to criticism.

The coffee cups around it quietly clinked applause. They had the same pattern and oriented themselves completely to the coffee pot.

We just always share the same opinion, my ladies, the coffee pot said contended, it's because we're all from the same family and have the same refined, solid onion pattern, really nothing foolish and independent. But above us, good Heavens, what a varied, mixed party this is! It is as if I were bumping into a sharp corner when I think of what riff-raff stands above us in the glass closet.

The coffee pot looked as if butter wouldn't melt in its mouth. For above it stood a nymph and a moor, a shepherdess and a lute player, and finally a Chinaman without legs. All those could look down though the glass sheet and they did so. A black devil also stood there, with gruesome red eyes and horns on his head. But about him the coffee pot in principle said nothing disparaging because the coffee pots with the pointed snout and the devil somehow have common interests.

Look, my ladies, the coffee pot said, this appalling nymph! Does she really wear anything? As good as nothing! It is unspeakably embarrasing. If one considers that the little, innocent mocca cups could see that!

The coffee cups clinked and the little, innocent mocca cups giggled with amusement because of course they had seen it all.

What do you think about it, dear cousin, the coffee pot asked the thick tea pot who sat beside it and nudged the tea pot with the handle, isn't it outrageous?

The tea pot was round, soft and contended. It nearly always slept and never understood if someone asked something. As the coffee pot nudged it, the tea pot lifted its lid and greeted.

Good evening, it said and went to sleep again.

Don't you have anything to dress? the coffee pot shouted upwards and looked dubiously at the nymph out of the corner of its eye, in Greece, it seems to be very warm, mademoiselle? But here, we aren't in Greece but somewhere else.

In mentioning that one wasn't in Greece but quite somewhere else, the coffee pot was just all too right.

The nymph didn't say a word and just turned its back to the coffee pot. She was as naked on the the back as she was on the front.

Terrible, my ladies, the coffee pot said, and have a look at the black moor. Isn't that dreadful? If one is black like this, one should go to Africa. Here with us, it is just a disgrace.

That the devil was just as black, yes even blacker, about that the coffee pot did not say a word.

Hist, You! Black one! the coffee pot shouted upwards, why don't you go to Africa?

But the little moor had a different temper than the Greek nymph.

Yuck! he said and stuck his tongue out at the coffee pot.

As the devil saw that a quarrel was imminent, he rubbed his hands with glee, rolled the red eyes and flirted with the horns. He was sympathetic to the old coffee pot because it always took care that things were pleasing for him and that he had something to do.

The Chinaman said nothing and nodded with the head. This was the only thing he wanted or could do. He did not have legs but only a belly, yellow like a lemon, and on the belly a head that he shook. He did not need more because he was a wise man from China and therefore that was sufficient. In fact, the coffee pot did not like him either but since he always only responded with a friendly nod to all the insults it had shouted at him, the coffee pot found it boring and left him in peace. Wagging head! was the last thing it had called him, and for a wise man from China this is a pretty tough term anyway. Even to this he had nodded and since that it deemed him stupid.

Yuck! the little moor said once again and stuck out his tongue a second time. It was a long, wide, red and healthy tongue.

This black tyke is disgusting, the coffee pot said, my heaven, these African manners in the midst of our refined onion pattern! But this naked nymph and the icky little moor are by far not the worst. The worst, my ladies, are the lovers above us who will not be ashamed to kiss before our eyes soon!

The coffee cups clinked indignantly and looked up curiously. There a cute little shepherdess sat with a wreath of flowers in her hair, and in front of her a pierrot kneeled with a lute and sang an old lovesong for her from the Provence. She looked down at him and tapped her delicate foot in the melody's rhythm that so many had sung before them, in the blue moonlight and with the wreath of flowers in their hair.

The devil rolled his eyes, flirted with the horns and rubbed his hands with glee. On the subject of love, the old coffee pots with the pointed snout were of invaluable importance for him.

But the pretty porcelain clock that stood on the very top of the glass closet above all and tolled the bell for all really just wanted to toll the hour at which the shepherdess and the pierrot should kiss. For the clock takes its course and does not take into consideration the old coffee pots and their pointed snouts.

Yes, that is the worst, the coffee pot said, but it is not yet the worst of the worst. The worst of the worst, my ladies, is…

The coffee cups trembled with excitement and the innocent little mocca cups giggled with amusement.

Dear cousin, do you also hear what is the worst of the worst? the coffee pot asked and nudged the thick tea pot with the handle.

The tea pot woke up, lifted its lid and greeted.

Good evening, it said and fell asleep again.

Thw worst of the worst, my ladies, is that these lovers at whom we rightly take offence at are not even faithful! The pierrot has just exchanged looks with the naked nymph, and the frivolous shepherdess has given her wreath of flowers to the black negro monster.

The devil rubbed his hands in a way that they started to loose color and got light stains.

But what the coffee pot had said was not true at all. For the nymph had turned away and on her back even a nymph has no eyes, and the little moor did not have a wreath of flowers in his hand but a big knive which simply belongs to the attire for a negro from Africa. And it was not a murder knive but a knive for bread and butter because the little moor was just a harmless person and merely from porcelain.

But the lutes and the hearts are sensitive things even when they are not of porcelain, and they not always ask if something is true or not. And so it happened that a string on the pierrot's lute ruptured and the little shepherdess' heart cracked. The old dreamy lovesong from the Provence fell silent, the pierrot looked to the ground, sad, and the little shepherdess sadly looked aside. The pretty porcelain clock above them tolled the silvery bell when they should kiss. But it was no longer their bell that was tolled and they no longer kissed. There is something sad about a crack in the heart and about a ruptured string.

But the little moor was the bravest of all. He became angry as he saw that all, so angry that he threw away his bread and butter knive and got hold of a cleaning cloth. And with this cleaning cloth he jumped though the narrow gap between the glass closet's shelves and stuffed the coffee pot's pointed snout shut so that it could not even utter the word coffee any more.

But as the devil saw this, he no longer rubbed his hands but he suddenly felt very dull. And then he fell over and broke into nothing but pieces. Because always when an old coffee pot gets its pointed snout stuffed, a devil feels dull and he busts. Therefore one cannot attend to that often and strongly enough.

The nymph laughed and the little moor buttered a bread with the big bread and butter knive, and that he had certainly earned freely. The shepherdess looked at the pierrot and the pierrot looked at the shepherdess, and then they eventually kissed. But the clock did them a favor and once again tolled the bell that was meant for them and which they had missed.

It is very rare in life that a bell that was meant for one and that one has missed tolls once again. Therefore one shall be very cautious with all that is of porcelain and what cracks so easily. Afterwards, it is too late.

In a way, all have some crack in their hearts and little can be done to change that. And one may well get a crack in one's heart about a ruptured string and about a song fell silent, about a kiss that was not kissed or about a bell that never tolled for one — but in no case one shall get a crack only because of the pointed snout of an old coffee pot. One shall stuff it resolutely with a cleaning cloth whereever one finds it. Because it is not worth a crack in the heart.

The wise man from China without legs and with the yellow belly possibly meant quite the same because he nodded with his head. But it is certainly true that he had also constantly nodded with his head before that. Probably he could not do otherwise and then one shall not take that soo seriously. Maybe he was not a wise man at all because he really was not from China but from Meissen.

But the thick tea pot had slumbered the whole story and it knew nothing about the crack in the heart. Only when the devil broke into pieces, it quickly awoke a little bit, lifted its lid and greeted.


From: Das Manfred Kyber Buch, Rowohlt, December 1985
Translation: Ulrich Messerle, January 2016
Published on:

Text Version: 2016-01-11 (a)