Hidden Lands, by Karin Boye

Hidden Lands

ELEMENTAL SPIRITS

We, we are older than you,
you earth’s children, proud and young.
Chaos’ age-old voice are we,
Chaos’ formless song we sing.

We, we are wind, we are water,
we are clouds in flight,
lamenting softly, lamenting shyly
far through the black late autumn night.

We, we are falsehood and play,
with tears a restless, playing call.
The moon, our lord, stands piningly pale.
King Ves„ll, he attracts and bewitches us all.

Children of the earth – when the rain grows cruel,
hearths and bright homes you build.
A power you have that frightens us sore,
the hard steel in hands surely held.

Come, taste the pale enchanter’s drink,
drink us out of the moon’s bowl,
submerge yourselves in Chaos’ formless power,
throw by the wayside your firm steel!

But to the sun in storming autumn
you build temples to shield against the night.
We seek woe like a drunken solace –
we are water, we are wind in flight!

THE THORN

Adeptly do you prick, thorn.
Well do you bite, cruel small arrows of the earth.
Slack, slow, carelessly heavy
my foot rests on the road.
Compelled harshly to tension,
when thorns sting,
my smarting foot flexes to run –
in flight onward it runs.

SUMMER DAY

The sea rests morning-still,
never does it seem to have had storms,
like a mighty spirit
sunnily morning-still,
heavy with devotion – light
with clarity’s strength.
Sharply and exactly is mirrored
the cliffs’ naked precipice.
Transparently simple
lie the wide depths.
Clear-lined,
light and pure all stands,
drawn surely in airy calm,
washed in the fragrance of salt.
Clear-lined,
even and pure, with thought alone
the day strides into the sky’s light,
fine as a precious stone.

THE WAY HOME

I know a way that leads home.
It is hard to go that way.
Every traveller there grows poor
and small and ugly and grey.

I know a way that leads home.
That way is bare, pure-blown.
It is like leaning one’s warm cheek
against unmerciful stone.

But he who has felt that stone
on his cheek’s frozen blood,
will perceive how gentle its hardness is,
how faithful and firm and good.

And he will thank the stone
and the hardness love will he,
and praise the only battle
that was worth his victory.

TO THE SEA

O sea, sea,
how strong that drink you brew!
Your great cold
is holy purification clear.
Your light-embrace
is cool health for human children, for us who love healing.

For you, sea,
beaming soft, roaring hard
false, and faithful always,
are a beautiful simile for beautiful things:
for the bold heart’s salt-foamed way in the world.

GUIDING PRINCIPLE

You my day! I do not want
to be only night, and hard dross, too –
for from your cheek spreads sweetly untouched
spring mornings’ brilliance of dew.

You my sun! I do not want
to be only autumn and wind blowing cold –
for in your gaze smiled triumph-glad
blue crystal that spring skies hold.

You my peace! I do not want
to be only defiance, war’s obstinacy –
for too young and budding golden
was the new life you gave to me.

THE STARS

Now it is over. Now I awake.
And it is calm and easy to go,
when there is nothing left to expect
and nothing to suffer any more.

Red gold yesterday, dry leaf today.
Tomorrow nothing will be there.
But stars burn silently all around
tonight in the sky as before.

Now I want to give myself away,
so I have not a fragment left.
Say, stars, will you receive
a soul of treasures bereft?

With you is freedom without flaw
in peace of far eternities.
He never heaven empty saw
who gave you his battle and dreams.

THE UNKNOWN ONE

I have never seen your healing hand.
You come in the dark, when no one knows.
I wait in silence and reliance shy
in loneliness.

You my sister and mother, you and I and not I,
your name is night, an enigma’s dark sun,
I sense you immense and mighty and blind
and soundlessly dumb.

You know depths of horrors I have not seen,
I tremble to break your law’s secret way,
But you know a solace mild denied to me
by sunbright day.

I have silently hidden in you my wound
and ached among thorns till my soul was bare.
In the darkness you touched the bush – it leapt
into wild roses there.

HAPPY HE THAT HAS GODS

Happy he that has gods,
he has a home.
Solace and a sure ground
are granted only by them.

Pledge yourself as a warrior
at an altar there.
Delivered is your soul
in the hour of prayer.

Rest there awaits you
only in battle’s stress.
Only between the shields
is there rest.

Compulsion to shiny weapons,
peril and faith, as well –
then will a home be raised for you,
where you can dwell.

TO A POET

You knew, then…!
For had you not known,
you would never have been able to say such things.

Strange twilight joy, that you also knew
all this heavy grief.
Your lost friendship wanders through centuries.
It calms fever’s fire.
And when I fall asleep consoled,
it feels as though you sat by my bed, like father,
and held my hand.

THE GREAT MULTITUDE

They have won. They rest. How their crowns shine.
Their long, long rest has no end.
They have tasted darkness. They have drunk death.
Their word was eternal: ‘Amen!’
Their faithful God
in the hard night bound their garland of honour.
Its name is more than joy.
Its name is life’s deep courage.

They have won. They rest. How their crowns shine.
May we endure. See, life is not long.
May we remember the rest. May we remember the crown.
May we remember the watchword.
In the safety of a barren sky
is our last dwelling prepared and our secure stronghold.
Its name is greater than joy.
Its name is life’s deep courage.

LEARN TO BE SILENT

Each night on earth is full of pain.
Heart, learn to be silent.
The hard souls, hard shields
reflect light from the home of the stars.

Your lament makes you weaker.
Heart, learn to be silent.
Only silence heals, silence hardens,
untouchedly chaste and guiltlessly true.

You seek suffering’s ardent life!
Heart, learn to be silent.
By wounds and fever no one is made strong.
Bright as steel is heaven’s stronghold.

THE INVISIBLE THINGS

I

You faithful things
that would my faith desire,
With you I forget
that I hold people dear.

You things secure.
before you I can fall in peace,
but mists and dew
are all friendship’s promises.

You strong things,
that have no body and no soul,
Oh, make for me with you
the safest bed of all.

II

And yet – you, my friend,
the things you gave to me.
Your beauty, it is in them.
Else none in them would be.

You became my heavy thirst
for worlds of white relief,
You became the vision cool
that steels me to all grief.

You glimpse of distant goals,
that stretch your wing so free,
my way is a way to you.
Else none in them would be.

TO SLEEP

The night’s baptism of the deep,
you, in whose rivers
the spirit thinks it strokes against
the sea that is called death –
it is life’s sea he touches,
life’s to-be-feared
beyond…

Pour your trance’s riddle!
Slowly I step out
into the subterranean
misty water
that which unseen washes
the roots of our daily lives,
that which carries
of foam of our daily lives –
that from whose darkness
raised itself, woken,
too deep for what thought knows,
the body’s fine, venerable,
immense, immense magnificence.
Pour your trance’s riddle,
wash from my spirit
the past day’s faded
dust and residue!
Death, who give life,
let me plunge again
into the light, life-renewed!

NEW WAYS

Here new ways go.
Quietly let us fare.
Come, let us seek
a new flower, and fair.

Throw away what we possess!
Everything attained, complete
lifelessly oppresses us,
not worthy of dream, song and deed.

Life is that which awaits,
what one cannot know of, or speak…
Come, let us forget!
New things and fair let us seek!

UNSCATHED

Unscathed from smoke and fire
goes he that wills a work.
Listen, o spirit, adventurous one,
listen well and mark!

Wild-winged butterfly,
every bloom is yours.
Unpunished you stepped in
to death’s bitter flowers,

flit childishly out of depths
where your need was most,
innocent and pure as fire
with your future-thirst.

laughing gently, gently
– for what way is worth tears? –
see life enticing
as discovery’s voyage nears.

Without shame, without guilt
you weigh evil, you weigh good.
All that you sought and all that you found
were merely steps to you –

steps that led to deeds.
Listen, o my spirit, listen and mark!
Unscathed from smoke and fire
goes he that wills a work.

SPRING SONG

In springtime, in sprouting time,
the seed its shell destroys,
and rye becomes rye and pine becomes pine
in freedom without choice.

A thrill of voluptuousness
passes through body and soul –
that I am I, necessarily I –
a sprout that’s come up whole,

a spring shoot whose growing power
I scarce envision yet –
but the stem’s sap of bitter taste,
with pleasure I know it.

Then begone, all my cowardice!
To my future I belong.
I take the right to grow now
as my roots will, and as strong.

THE STARS’ SOLACE

I asked a star last night
– far away, where no one lives, a light -:
‘Whom do you light, strange star?
You move so large and bright.’

It made my pity grow mute,
when she looked with her starry gaze,
‘I light a night eternal,
I light a lifeless space.

My light is a flower that withers
in the skies’ late autumn, rough.
That light is all my solace.
That light is solace enough.’

EVENING STILLNESS

Feel how near Reality dwells.
She breathes near here
on evenings with no wind.
Perhaps when no one looks, she shows herself,

The sun glides over rock and grass.
In her silent play
life’s spirit is concealed.
Never as this evening was he so close.

I have met a stranger with silent lips.
If I had reached out my hand
I would have brushed his soul,
as we passed each other with timid steps.

VICTORY

Victory, victory has no voice,
no rushing sound of delight.
Are there such simple and even roads
Under such soberly sparing light?

Victory, victory has no hue.
Against his gaze splendour seems thin.
Quiet and pale in his halo pale
he glides home out of falsehood and din.

Victory, victory is seldom seen,
moves past like a spirit-guest.
Blessed are those whom his clear form
awaits with light at death’s feast.

THE CHILD

To the rock Prometheus lay bound.
A child went out in the early morning hour.
‘Stop, child, and here behold
man’s friend bound in iron
for all the good he did!’
But the child, frightened
by the words’ greatness, the eyes’ defiance,
crept past with a prayer to Zeus
away to gentlest games. – –
I would follow you silently, where you go.
The wise and the children, they play their way to
that which in heaven is hid.

THE SPRING WATER

A spring water is justice,
clear and colourless.
A scarce-perceptible and strange
fine taste it has.
But when wine is to be had,
such drink is so poor.
Nothing but water is the spring.
Yet I yearn for it there.

Nothing but water is justice,
nothing much to attain –
too close, too hard to love,
a bitter drink to drain.
Lord, give me justice,
give my soul its peer!
Lord, give me water,
colourless and clear!

YOU SHALL THANK

You shall thank your gods,
if they force you to go
where you have no footprints
to trust to.

You shall thank your gods,
if all shame on you they pin.
You must seek refuge
a little further in.

What the whole world condemns
sometimes manages quite well.
Outlaws were many
who gained their own soul.

He who is forced to wild wood
looks on all with new sight,
and he tastes with gratitude
life’s bread and salt.

You shall thank your gods,
when your shell they break.
Reality and kernel
the sole choice you can make.

GRANDFATHER

I have seen Grandfather in the summer night’s light,
alone in the night’s clover-scent.
By the well of the farm
he stood bowed,
and sharpened the harvesters’ scythes.
Like a fading shadow so grey,
as old he as the farm,
he seemed yet to live as living a life as it.
His fragile song I will not forget.

‘O masterful father in the farm,
to grandfather you are nought but a boy.
I am the first who turned your earth.
When the plough strives in the furrow,
do you remember me then?
In times beyond memory
I began, from stones heaved aside,
to raise the cairn that marks the land’s limit.

For a thousand years
I have built it and built with all of you who built,
held the plough’s shaft with all you who ploughed.
I have a share in your work,
have a right to demand.
You know well what it is:
that the holy seed shall grow
constantly, constantly
here on those fields where I
for the first time sowed it.’

SOME HEARTS ARE TREASURES

Some hearts are treasures
that never can be done.
Their owners strew them generously
out in streams of sun.
Gratefully we take
the gift in cautious hand.
Hail and happy, blessed one,
who handles gold like sand!

Some hearts are fires
that burn deep below.
In coldest night thrown there
a reflection on the snow.
Enchanted thus, no one
in constant longing burns
as he that sees that shimmer one night
and forth to the fire yearns.

TONIGHT THE HEAVEN HAS NO GARB

Tonight the heaven has no garb.
He shivers naked.
And never saw I yet his gaze
so all-too waking.

Say, when you fall asleep tonight:
A day is won.
On the road where one loses all
a rest’s begun.

Then you will live from day to day
and lose, lose fast,
and yet desire still to remain
until the last.

Then you will find life strong,
if you can burn.
Then will each loss become a gain –
for you shall turn

ever further towards that ground of life
that gave you birth,
and beyond all dreams’ deceit
the cause is there –

until in the hour of your greatest loss
your soul, burned down,
goes to the place of extinguished lights.
A day is won.

THE WANDERER

Tell me, nymph from Knowledge’s wells,
are there things to show to me here?
Dizziness seizes me, laughter and terror.
The air has paths that bear!

Alone with you, you eagle-eyed one,
I wander far, so far ascend,
frozen roads, chiming roads
without a goal or end.

All the holy days of love
their evening and aloneness know.
Faithful wait in the evening light
you that search and know.

All that I meet I will leave again.
Nymph, you heal burning woe.
Chiming roads, chiming roads
happy with you I will go.

Follow me hence through life’s days,
teach me to say at darkness’ door:
‘Nothing I knew, little know I –
yet it is more than before!’

WISH

Oh let me live aright,
and rightly die some day,
so that I touch reality
in evil as in good.
And let me be still
and what I see revere.
so that this may be this
and nothing more.

If of all life’s long course
a single day were left,
then I would seek the fairest
that lives on earth possess.
The fairest thing there is on earth
is only honesty,
but it alone makes life to life
and to reality.

So is the wide world
a dew-cup’s petal here.
and in the bowl there rests
a drop of water clear.
That single still drop
is life’s eye-apple, sure.
Oh, make me worthy to look in it!
Oh, make me pure!

TO A FRIEND

On outspread wings in the heights the eagle sails.
The air is thin where he glides, and hard to breathe.
In the mountain winter’s desolate air he is lonely far.
Twilight and cold are his retinue –
his only joy
the joy of feeling himself fly on strong wings.

How high you move in the emptiest winter skies,
brave as the eagle because of a lightning will.
You abstained from striving for happiness, you chose steep
paths that frighten us weak ones.
How pale you wander,
wander with swift and resilent steps like the wind.

My world is like yours, and yet it is not like it.
Laughing, my star dances among starry riddles.
Your iron-grey joy, I love it from far in the distance.
Let me go by your side
and reach with my gaze
into your wintry world and your lightning will!

BURNING CANDLES

Now cries the night aloud in need,
with unknown dread a-quake.
Now light I here two candles straight
for eternal darkness’ sake.

If the Lord’s angels pass by here,
the light will call to them,
then they will hear the flames sing my prayer,
and bear it with them home.

They are warriors who go in armour of fire
with word from the Almighty’s house.
Their speech has no words for harsh and sweet.
but for burning candles it has.

That is why they stand on the storm’s back
between the whipping wings’ din,
that is why they smile at the darkness’s power
and meet the cold with disdain.

O Lord my God, O terrible God,
Your mantle’s roar booms free.
I pray for flowers and pray for peace –
but give burning candles to me!

SONGS ABOUT FATE

I

Fate is a desert.
God dwells in its sand.
If you seek your Sinai
you receive his command.

Fate is a strip of land
with many stones spread.
Happy he that endures:
he shall earn bread.

Into heaven’s halls
no one goes before
he has stepped unafraid
through Fate’s door.

II

You know you bear a shackle
and hear the chain rattle.
But one who hammers hard and long
Can make a shield of its metal.

You know you bear a poison.
But all death’s juices
becme in a wise and careful hand
kind healing forces.

You think you bear a cross,
but it’s a tool, you know.
Your life’s the material. Look here, take hold,
and let the martyr go!

III

Wish for nothing that others have had:
all happens one single time.
Wish for nothing that some bard
has sung in his loveliest rhyme.

One star-bright night, when you lie awake,
Fate will knock at your door
and seek you with eyes of colour strange,
which no one spoke of before.

She fell like dew from the air,
from the bosom of space she came,
and no one, no one has met her gaze,
and no one has given her a name.

To you she has come from Nothing’s land,
she has been created for you,
and no one, no one in age upon age
has kissed her lips more than you.

’SIR AND ELVES

I

’SIR AND ELVES DIVIDE THE POWER

The ’sir rode over the rainbow bridge
with frost-white weapons,
glimpsed far in the Iron Forest’s darkness
the dripping monster’s maw.
The swords rang and gleamed
when giants’ names were heard.
The voices’ echoes, the hooves’ thunder
carried far into space.

The elves walked in sprouting grass
softly on supple feet.
Trees leapt into blossom when the elves stepped
lightly over twisted roots.
Earth’s kingdom rejoiced,
sprouting spring came in.
the May night shone white
with elves’ white skin.

’sir and elves went to sessions
and divided the power of the earth.
The ’sir sat like hewn statues,
heavy with primeval splendour.
The elves slid like shadows
– they saunter as they will –
shadows of all that does not exist
but one day perhaps will.

’sir and elves conferred
and divided the earth up thus:
to ’sir all that a hand can take
and all that a word can reach,
to ’sir all that is spoken
and all the time that flew –
to elves that which thereafter remains :
all that is namelessly new.

’sir and elves conferred
and divided the family of men:
to ’sir those who hold fast
to their fathers’ inherited right,
chieftain and warrior
and every sacrificial priest
and all who pray in temples –
from east and to west.

’sir and elves conferred
and divided the race of men:
to elves those who obey blindly
a day that has not yet dawned,
all who sacrifice in the forest
and do not support the fathers’ laws
and all who grow like wild trees –
all, from north to south.

Thus did they confer, and thus it was.
Thus they steer the earth’s ring.
The ’sir dispose over watchwords in battle
and visible signs and things.
But the elves they control the things
that have never had a name,
and all that they have and all that they give
is the force of fertility’s flame.

II

THE ELF DAGUR SINGS ABOUT FATE

In the world’s tree nine days
sacrificed he hung
– so pale I never saw any,
god or man –
erect, with relentless mouth,
his ruler’s hands clenched,
above the sacrifice he made
his eyelids closed.
But my mind
jumped like a snake – I cried: ‘Who has done it?’
The dark voice answered, tremblingly low:
‘I myself have done it.’

Little do I know of wisdom’s well,
never yearned to be there.
Its lustre is black. I know a spring,
gleaming silver-white:
deep, deep near life’s roots
a wave washes my mind.
No one demanded my eye as a pledge.
I drink freely in there.
Like a stream
flows my day – as though I had never heard
the strange answer I hear each night in my dreams:
‘I myself have done it.’

Then the earth’s blossoming spring seems to me
like dead things and dust
against him, sacrificed to himself
in the ash’s whistling air.
Then my thought seeks in vain a well
that seems worthy of the feat.
a drink that must be cruelly won
with costly sacrifice.
No power
resembles theirs, who were silent, were silent and did it.
Through the darkness shines with splendour of flames:
‘I myself have done it.’

The old witch spoke the truth.
‘The strong,’ she said one time,
‘are born for gaze of lofty powers
and song of trembling man.
The more a strong one can suffer harm,
the more difficult things can he learn,
and dark Norns rejoice to see
how heavy a load a man can bear.’
Never yet
bore I a burden – and am not aware that I ought to.
But that dream, none is as proud as it:
‘I myself have done it.’

III

ODIN AND RINDUR

(By means of forbidden magic Odin had won the elf-daughter Rindur,
who according to the counsels of the Norns would give birth to
Baldur’s avenger.)

‘Dark runes I carved, which no hand should carve,
I who am called chieftain in heaven’s hall.
Heaven and earth are sick. Heaven and earth will break.
Myself guilt-bowed I will fall on Vigrid’s slope.
Once, irrevocably, happens all that happens,
lonely, eternal, carved in stone it stands.’
‘King, one thing I know that always returns:
the earth’s holy breathing, autumn and spring.’

The earth’s forests murmured quietly in time’s dawn,
murmur still, when the gods’ power is all.
Under the spinning, under the swell of the fates
moves an engendering sea of deep crystal.
Sleep, shuttle of the Norns! Nothing is transformed.
Worlds waken in new suns’ gold.’
‘Once, irrevocably, have I already acted –
yearn to pay on Vigrid’s slope my debt.’

THE TREE

When my door is shut and my lamp has gone out
and I sit in twilight’s breathing wrapped,
then I feel around me move
branches, a tree’s branches.

In my room where no one else lives
the tree spreads a shadow as soft as gauze.
It lives silent, it grows well,
it becomes what some unknown one thinks.

Some spirit-power, power secret made,
in the trees’ hidden roots its will has laid.
I am frightened sometimes and ask in fear:
Are we so surely friends?

But it lives in calm and it grows still,
and I know not where it strives and whither it will.
It is sweet and bewitching to live so near
one whom one does not know…

THE SHIELD-MAIDEN*

I dreamed about swords last night.
I dreamed about battle last night.
I dreamed I fought by your side
armoured and strong, last night.

Lightning flashed harsh from your hand,
and the giants fell at your feet.
Our ranks closed lightly and sang
in silent darkness’ threat.

I dreamed about blood last night.
I dreamed about death last night.
I dreamed I fell by your side
with a mortal wound, last night.

You marked not at all that I fell.
Earnest was your mouth.
With steady hand the shield you held,
and went your way straight forth.

I dreamed about fire last night.
I dreamed about roses last night.
I dreamed my death was fair and good.
So did I dream last night.

*In Norse, skjaldmey (Swedish sköldmö), an ‘Amazon’, a female warrior who fought alongside men [tr.]

Karin Boye: Gömda land (1924)

– translation © David McDuff 2011

Bo Carpelan

Poems from Years Like Leaves (1989)

A little before four, in November
when the field’s snow turns blue
the woods grow black, the sky grows deep,
life comes to a halt.
A lamp-post among the trees
lights up a shovelled courtyard
that awaits the son’s arrival.
Then the day is done,
the hoar frost on the trees
sinks into the darkness, and on fields
where a road stands empty
the wind begins. Palely in the west
the red sun has set.
Each distant lamp reflects
the sense of maybe coming home.
Against a cloudy sky
the trees’ bare boughs can scarce be seen.
A little before four, in November
the twilight deepens
like a feeling in its waiting
before anxiety violently cuts.
Five minutes later it’s all over.

*

Someone draws his finger over the table’s surface.
There in the mirror inside the heavy wardrobe
visible for a moment are the vague features
of a stranger who held up the threadbare gannents
in a darkness full of naphthalene and tobacco.
Years have mouldered. This silent room
stands waiting as though it still
might heai someone calling over his shoulder:
‘Everything here is just as it used to be — fantastic!
Wait…’ Then, the voice, uncertain and low:
‘Someone has been here. Look.’ Footsteps moving away,
silence like a cobweb of dreams.
In empty rooms someone has always been,
someone has always come visiting
and changed it all.

*
The old man asked: ‘Are the oaks still there?
There were woods in my day. Are they still there?’
He sat in a mini-house in Monterey,
could no longer remember any Swedish, spoke a few words of Russian.
He sat like his own shadow and saw
with unseeing eyes the cruelly burnt garden —
the sound of the sea was scarcely audible here, gave no coolness.
‘They used to dance, the farm-lads, when it was Saturday.’
He cleared his throat, his hands moved uneasily.
‘Bagpipes? Or something like that, can’t remember,
the trees, them I remember, the mighty oaks, the woods,
it’s as though they still could give coolness…’
He looked at me with an almost angry gaze
as though he had guessed the truth. I replied as he wanted:
‘They’re still there, it’s good to rest under them.’
There was a pause. Then, far away now, he said:
‘When the wind moves through an oak-wood you remember it, always.’
*
The light has grown colder, the words fewer.
People rent other rooms, die or survive
but you know nothing of them, not even from hearsay.
They keep away. It may be that on a windy street
you suddenly encounter a smell, a sound
that makes you stop, turn round:
there is only an old woman in a scoop-hat
disappearing into a stairway, an eddy of dust.
Was there something you wanted to say, note down,
something that evades you, incomprehensible signs
on an old wall next to the locked door?
With a key you did not know you had
you go inside. On the stairs you see precisely nothing.
Those who come towards you have already passed,
the woman is gone, what you were about to say
someone else has said; you are too early
or too late, you wait. You are too late.

*

A fireball, they say, may be
a bird that has been struck in the crown of the tree
and transformed into a burning sphere
of soot, bones and feathers —
many experts do not believe this at all.

Children who have imagination and read, they say,
dream about these birds transformed into spheres,
dream about fire, and every sound,
every voice from the kitchen, the rattle of pails
is the lightning’s boom of death and fire.

The image of the heaven’s stars as glowing spheres
leads the children’s thoughts to this:
dead birds eternally hurled towards the deeps,
distant, white as wind and bone,
giddying, frail small bodies.

The wise talk of children’s far too lively imagination.
Better to see the stars of space, their beauty
for what it is, and the earth a moon
full of children who cannot sleep,
who lie with open eyes in the silence’s fire.

*

As you step across the border between seen and realized,
between Always and Never Again,
do you perceive that you have given up, the dead
turn away from you as though they recognized you?
Do you believe the garden will never again bear fruit?
That people are swept like dust along streets
where the asphalt sparks with splintered glass?
Is there a mirror in you that repeats
you who turned away, after you said goodbye — is it
a fleeing thief you see, afraid of becoming pocket-moneyless?
You think you have lost your face, sit
in rooms that are foreign and judge existence
according to them: empty rooms. And not even a chestnut tree’s light
among shifting tracery of leaves can tell you anything,
or the cries of children, inaccessible, swift as swallows.
The only way out is to direct into the darkness
what belongs to the light. Hopeless has no hope.
You know it. One more spring, dirty and mute.
And yet: to the sight this fragrance of high sky,
to the ear the blackbird’s echoing song!
It is as if in spite of everything your prayers had been answered.
There a hint of approaching summer,
somewhere low voices one warm light evening,
there are Once More and the beloved, near.

*

Here is a field with spring dew,
a view to the south, a cloud
that stops, moves, stops
like a heavy carriage.
The light is changing over roads worn out with travel,
as though they had borne all life’s lumber.
Sunlight gleams in the water that has gathered
in the mud’s meandering tracks,
but swiftly fades.
You take a few steps towards the dark wall.
The cold wind barely moves the trees.
The darkness falls as though it rose
out of the ground and surrounded you,
leaned over you as once the mother
over her child
submerging it in sleep.

*

The bumble-bees that increase and diminish their stubborn song
increase and diminish the heat as well — their anger
stops up the window of the sky, divides the ground into sun and shadow.
Sleep on a day like this is confused, in the dream
the room is locked and you will never get the key —
the number is forgotten. The sun moves slowly into clouds.
It is quiet, as in the graveyard of the winds,
where each tapering trunk stands with its back to you, hiding
the meandering path. You did not think
the twilight would fall so quickly?
You thought someone would meet you before the dark?
Years are forgotten — you go trackless and listen no more,
not even to the echo of songs out of black thickets.
When you wake up you look at the window.
Even the violent light there is a sign of darkness.

*

There came a voice, it said:
because you are silent this is secret,
it remains between us like silence.

You will live on without noticing it,
you will see and experience many things,
rejoice, mourn, go among people

and no one but you will notice it,
there is a wind from the sea in the evening
that has brought you out to the open heights

and you see lights from the city, voices
that carry over the water, see yourself
among those who seek their way down the harbour,

but you are outside the harbour, you hear a voice,
it says: I have been waiting for you,
you are here, there is nothing between us any more,

you are on the move, are free, finally nameless.

*

‘They have no use for me any more.
They turn away when I say:
I speak not of truth, but truth.
It is the speech of the gods that says in me
that the day is loftier than the night,
that light shall prevail.
The light conceals and demands neither name nor honour.
It is the water that rises to the trees of the shore
and unfolds like shadows on the leaves,
those mute lips: it is not the trees that speak
but the breeze that moves through them.
So also does time’s breeze move through me,
I must stay awake, so that it leaves me open.
Fire there is, also, torches in the blood
but the true makes muddy: best is clear water.
Thus says Pindar. His goal is mine:
the highest beauty, that is the true.
Beyond that is merely conftision,
not mine but theirs who cast me out
into torments of loneliness.
Thus is the truth preserved unbroken within me.
In deepest darkness the morning is hidden.
To no one is this of advantage except to him
who sees torment’s counterbalance in the noble,
that which like a tree turns its crown towards the light.
Invisible am I
and what they see of me is indistinct, undeciphered.
But the song possesses endurance, rises like a bird
for a moment sun-illumined, and this light
remains eternally. I saw it, the song,
saw that it does not return.’

(Hölderlin)

*

They move under the earth mile after mile,
the meadow rests green, then withers
and leaves moulder, roads
stretch through the darkness,
the roots go so deep, fossilize,
migrate inward towards the towns,
asphalt bends and cracks,
in great heat a shadow burns
against the wall that has struck root —

the roots twist together,
what those who see call crown
is for those who know root,
its sap flows like a dark river
through sun-bright tracery of branches,
roots move up there above
in the wind that sweeps
over the city’s roofs and towers,
out towards the sea, the mute deeps.

*

It is silent and empty in the world.
Good to have not a thought in one’s head,
only, beneath closed eyes, quivering of a life,
not to gather it but to lie awake,
remember, forget, see the water flow,
not step in but oneself be the water,
the night and the faint dawn.

It is silent and empty in the world.
What has been said is silent, is empty in the world,
and a winter, snowless, mild as the spring
says that summer, autumn and winter
are sinking away in the silence, and the years
alone are there, without demands and heavy darkness.
He who keeps watch alone dreams alone.

*

He that showed you up the stairs,
opened the door to the room, then disappeared,
is no longer to be found, they shrug their shoulders,
someone else has booked the room you live in,
you’ll have to hide in a cupboard,
if you wait long enough perhaps
the man will come back, nod affirmatively: it’s your room,
always has been. He goes, locks the door after him,
you sit motionless on the edge of your bed, from the courtyard
voices are heard, cries, children and grown-ups,
sudden outbursts followed by silence.
Was this it, everything? All this, saying nothing,
abandoned when the time came.
There is a smell of floor-wax and you open the window,
see that it’s spring, hear someone coming up the stairs.
The woman in the corridor outside takes her key
and opens the double lock for the young couple.
‘Here I shall live with you to all eternity,’ he says.
She laughs: ‘Only until the next tenant.’
‘You’ll have to pay now, cash,’ says the woman,
‘the last tenant just scarpered, disappeared.’
‘We’ll take it,’ he says, ‘we’ll take it. A room’s a room.’

*
In the nights the trees murmur like water.
The day beneath your closed eyes is happy and pure.
You move freely, glide as on wind-filled sails
one summer when school is out and you are not sure,

you do not yearn, do not know if it is night or morning,
the skerries out there move slowly on water-currents
and rise up into the light, no one knows about you,
the day blows like dandelion puff no one knows that you exist

here in this secret clarity, like a light, high cloud.

*

Then I saw from the window the line of the coast
sink in waves, restlessly driven by the wind
but could not hear the booming behind the moist windows.
People were struggling out along the promenade
with heavy suitcases, as during the war.
Something was happening and was soon unbridled,
carts of lumber creaked mutely past
and the whites of the horses’ eyes gleamed with terror.
Then everything was wiped away by the mist of the sound.
When I got out the silence was near.
What I saw was hidden, as when the trees were hidden
by driving smoke in the rising wind
with the tang of seaweed and mud — all as before.
The only thing I could not hear was a living voice,
only the blare of an ambulance driving past.
What had happened was only a memory and therefore lingered.
At night I dreamed that I stood at the outermost end of the pier,
dreamed about black trees being hurled
into the darkness like glowing firewood at an open stove.
Far out to sea in half-waking a foghorn could be heard,
hollow cries from some ship on a counter-course.

(Rungstedlund)

*

The forest is flying,
haze conceals the trees. There deepest in the forest birdsong,
so loud, remote
in these quiet rooms
where the window’s curtains incline over the floor
like bridal trains.
All the windows black, swiftly sunlit,
all longing dead and new. It is so silent
where people have died, the imprints of their hands are hidden here
in things that have ceased to be. Come, see me,
like a bird, solitary,
clear and stretched
over the waters, the waters.

(Rungstedlund)

*

In the midst of a calm, bright feeling
there sometimes comes a bow-stroke of despair
as to the swimmer in summer water an ice-cold current
that makes the gaze alert, the day acute.
In the first movement of Sibelius’ Sixth
there is this astonishing, swift glimpse
down into those hidden torments
that are a part of the sea with its mirroring clouds,
and this gaze plumbs the deep,
plumbs the bottom’s wreckage and bones, cannot forget
what is deepest hidden in days of June,
quickly expiring, wind-puffs only.

*

Back one May evening, and the rooms silent.
Low-moving clouds in the twilight
shift the trees further away.
From the table light — not that a light stood there,
but out of the surface itself, out of that nothingness
that is filled by people.
So objects linger and begin to live
when the door opens, the fragrance of spring comes in
and keeps you company a while
and you remember who it was who said:
‘I shall return in spring, you will not escape me.’
In that which is seemingly mute
there is a mighty, unheard voice that lives there
like the tree in the forest, in the table, or
the dream in the act, the scent of flowers
before the flowers have bloomed,
before the summer has arrived.

*

The tree knows in the winter night that the spring is there
hidden in the hard earth, but says nothing.
The wind blows indifferently, bushes stand grey
and as the days lighten it gets more and more difficult,
the concentration, the work, as though darkness were needed
for a necessary calm. Sparrows, restless,
look for fallen seeds by the fence
where mice swiftly creep out and vanish again
as though there were a city under the earth,
crawling, swarming life, and, like a threat
the moth-eaten squirrel’s leap up onto the bird-table:
everything threatening in broad daylight, all the dirt visible
under a uniformly grey sky, day after day
and just cold enough so that the snow does not melt —
then a voice says from a well-concealed room:
Be still! There is a language, you know it,
it is in league with days and dreams,
bright fields and mountain slopes the sun has left.
Remember it, wait.

*

When we went up the stairs we noticed
that there were no windows facing west,
towards forest and sea we asked the owner:
houses had been pulled down, wall had stood against wall,
that which had been invisible was visible now,
there were views, if we would follow him.
We began this endless upwards climb
on the dark spiral staircase with its worn steps.
We felt ourselves grow older the higher we went,
breathed pantingly — what was this, a fire tower?
This was after all a house to live in.
Right at the top he, whom we did not know
and saw unclearly in the dark we took with us,
opened an iron door. There was a large hall, whitewashed,
window-splays and loopholes through which bays could be seen,
far-stretching forests, in the inlets white sails
and, deep below, trees moving slowly.
It was as if they were trying to show us something, or warn.
We looked westwards. The sun was setting, there was still a glow
on a sheet-metal roof, a childlike churchbell sounded.
He who had led us here was almost black against the light.

*

He who does not want to be born
yearns when born for the timeless.
Where he is he hides,
what he says is his protection
and the dark clouds that follow him
he has shadowed and given weight
so that the ground from raindrops’ fall
may turn green, trees grow, graves
fill with unpenetrated silence.
He who does not want to be born
does not want to die, and lingers in life
as the shadow lingers near the smile,
near the unsuspecting life in the light.

*

After such long waiting so few words,
so few colours, such lonely sounds.
Objects illumined by harsh days,
as under a grey-vaulted sky
the voice of the sea, the hour dark,
the autumn near.

*

When he reaches for the glass on the table
there is someone observing him so keenly
that he quickly withdraws back into the shadows
and sees the face of a man who seems familiar
lean forward so that his cheekbones gleam white
while his eyes are hidden in darkness, that darkness he sees
through the window where people are hurrying by.
He feels it as though he had been weighed and rejected
by someone who in his turn quickly withdraws
and speaks to the woman who fleetingly
tums in his direction and then shakes her head.
It feels as though the whole sat-down pub were sinking
as a wire basket sinks beneath the black electric water
among hands and eyes that barely remember
he was there with his anxious heart
and his going-away shirt.

*

The autumn’s silence remains, the haze
between trees of air and gentle fragrance of water,
as once on a spring morning in a southern town.
And the spring is there with birds that raise the sky
with their song, blue-shadowed like the yielding winter twilight.
Summers there are with the stillness of morning, great and lonely,
your hand warm, your gaze open —; to later
say farewell is to take a step nearer the evening
when conversations grow softer and at last fall silent
and those who are visible on the road are going away, hard
soon to see them as they walk, shadows among shadows.
And the grass that has grown tall and has stopped having colour:
here there was a well-trampled path, eager feet, the children’s,
silvery waters that freeze and something uninhabited
in each and everyone’s inner town. You try to find your way out of it.
There is a silence outside you in every language,
something is being prepared, it is not you who is doing it,
there is a conversation outside you between hand and eye,
the air is still mild and the autumn’s silence a song
in all that is most inward outside you.

*

There was once a calm and timeless time
when deep dreams’ trees that now are dead bled
enclosing in the resin’s honey-sheen a flower
or a dark insect, centuries of eager life,
now just a jewel in your hand.
Is there still an echo of lofty music there?
Are within the stone enclosed your dreams
and the murmur of a cool and life-filled tracery of leaves?
A shadow in a stone, soon dead and nameless.
*

The summer came in May and was soon over.
June came and froze fast with water-pictures by the shore.
Later, after midsummer, the darkness fell more quickly.
Each day the earth was homeless, autumnal.
As although already now he wanted to hide himself away in winter
but was driven by anxiety and longing for the shore.
What he saw there had already been used up.
Clarity existed, but was mostly emptiness.
The winter came.

– translation © 2011 David McDuff

Mirjam Tuominen

Poems from “Under the earth sank” (1954) by Mirjam Tuominen (1913-1967)

DOWN

Down in straight lines the birds
silent O silent
down down
into an earth that opens like a sea
into a sea you plunge.
Up up.

It closes.

MAKE ME TEACH ME

Make me pure
teach me silence
make me whole
teach me new words
words that are not words
words that are like silence
whole pure
not self-abandonment
not accusation
not defence
not thesis
not antithesis
but synthesis.

May life and death
hold each other in balance.

SING

The night is near.
The dark is rising.
It has already risen high.
Sing.
Death is near.

Place counterweight against counterweight
on the scales of life.
The scales of death are full
so steeply is the balance tipped.
Place counterweight against counterweight.
The one so light the other so heavy.
Counterweight against counterweight is needed now.

How easy to be caught in a crevice
to incline sheerly to fall.
To close one’s eyes to sleep only sleep
in this embrace as light as air as space
and for always forever.
Forever: O death
dark truth-sayer
implacable
gentle exposer of lies
filth evil.
Take me! Hide me!
Let me sleep!
Infinitely O infinitely
you allow your own to sleep.
Sleep sleep sleep
while the truth works
on their closed eyelids
and resting hands
resting like cut flower-stems.

I had already forgotten
that it would be so easy.
It had already had time to become
new unfamiliar.
It frightened me.
I understood now
that it could be shocking
this violent way
of keeping not only life company
but also, devotedly, death
the reverse side of the medallion
the up- and downturned scale
the one that catches darkness
as wide as oceans and earth
and the heavenly vault
that is stretched over oceans and earth.
And the stars’ blindly gazing eyes
and the bloodthirsty moon’s
indifferent wishing towards new fullness, new wholeness.
Life and death inseparably united.
Murder and birth
Birth constant birth
and birth too is death
death and life inseparably united
but not mingled together
that is the cycle
that is the moon’s blind will
and the blind will of man
and the blind will of all things.

Long enough death’s kingdom held you
captive.
Long alas long enough
you sojourned there.
It set you free.
It gave you life
when everything collapsed.

Break the magic circle!
Mingle no more together
death
with life!

Will there not still come days and nights
when the snow falls soft?
Encircle engird fence round!

Can an accuser lower himself
to a marriage with his accused?
What content of joy
could be extracted from such a marriage?
The prosecuter accuses
the accused defends herself.
The accuser pronounces or defers the sentence
the accused lives in taut expectation.
Is that love?
I ask I ask I ask.

One day the bow will be stretched too taut
One day it will have to snap.

From you alone.

Fresh snow will come
fresh white soft snow
stillness goodness work
Work illness poverty
that is the trinity:
life.
Stillness kindness work
which alone and solely signify
work illness poverty
Live for that
that was what met you
when it was happening.

The magic circle is broken
the accused is free
executioner and victim are a construction.
Whoever lets himself be accused
becomes an accused
whoever lets himself be victimized
becomes a victim
whoever lets himself be crucified
becomes a cripple.
And whoever spreads fear
yes, he spreads fear.
Better
not to let oneself be accused
not to let oneself be victimized
not to let oneself be crucified crippled
not to spread fear.
The one who wants to prevent fear
exists in fear
and perhaps attains reconciliation.
The one who wants kindness
is neither executioner nor victim
but simple
The one who is appointed executioner
becomes an executioner
if he allows himself to be appointed executioner
the one who is appointed accuser
becomes an accuser
if he lets himself be appointed accuser

But it is not the accusation
(which is perhaps false)
not the defence
(which is always pointless and unnecessary
if the accusation was false)
not the sentence
only the deed that convinces.
Some must die.
On their closed eyelids
their resting hands
resting like cut flowerstems
on the ash the dust of what they were
the truth works
implacably incorruptibly.
Not self-surrender
only unavoidable death
or continued life without self-surrender
is the deed that convinces
sooner or later
later or sooner.

So build life’s ship
build it strong
build it with good will
honest desires uprightness
build it
on solid foundations
on death’s foundations:
your foundations
on life’s:
also yours.

INVOCATION

Beyond the seven mountains
the seven valleys
the seven rapid torrents
the seventy-seven nights
the seventy-seven days
the seven hundred-and-seventy-seven days-and-nights
the seven thousand and seventy-seven paradise years
inferno years purgatory years
shut up in the mountain
beyond the valleys
beyond the rapids
beyond the nights the days
the days-and-nights
the paradise years
inferno years purgatory years
inside shut in
outside shut out
I cry: ‘Awake!
Come back!
Why did you abandon me?
A whole is more than a half.
A half cannot live as a whole.
Awake awake awake!
Go back the long way
the hard way
over the seven mountains
through the seven long valleys
Soar float plunge
over through
the violent currents
the dangerous whirlpools!
See:
I look like a human being
and am a semblance
a hollow shell
without you.
You say that you are dead.
I say that you are asleep.
I call you back
I cry out for you
I beg I appeal:
come!
The darkness takes me
fear screams
shrilly with a bird’s voice.
Fear O fear fear
nothing but fear
you gave me life.
Give me back
set me free
the chains rattle.
I weep
there is blood where I walk.
Fences grilles barriers
the birds are eating from my eyes
those cruel birds with strong beaks
and averted gaze
O birds birds birds
harbingers chosen ones shimmering white deep-black
you
not those cruel ones, not the eagles
but you
mortal harbingers
you that travel with messages from death
take me on your wings
fetch me back
birds birds birds
sorrow-swan black swan lonely swan
I call upon you I cry out I beg
wild swan
you that do not exist
I who do not exist
gentle swan:
Fetch me back
give me back
my living entrails
out there outside
inside shut in!
Give me
grant me
fetch me!
Sorrow-swan black swan
harbinger from death’s kingdom
together we must plunge
soar float
the veils of the water are soft
the sky without weight.
It is easy to soar
hard to walk.
Breathe breathe breathe
like the bird
when it floats.
I want to travel the long way
there
return again
here.

LET GO OF MY HAND

Let go of my hand you idle grasp!
Here no human hand can help
Neither father nor mother.
Neither brother nor sister.
Neither husband nor wife.
Neither doctor’s advice
nor doctor’s knife.
A child has known what you know.
Do not fear
the fall, the deep one!
Vertigo
only takes the one who is afraid.
Be silent!
Go forward!

WILD ROSES

Wild thickets thorn hedges
bar your way
wayless.

But the insight
at the bottom of all our souls
the same: and only.

Our only common inheritance
our only common ground
and bottom in depth of the most extreme necessity.

Amidst thorns and wounds
all at once
fragrant wide-open exhaling.

I SIT ABYSS

I sit abyss at your brink.
Only those who have themselves been seized by vertigo
know what fear is.
The child does not break faith.
Nor the one by childlike insight led.
Green-gleaming valley at your brink.

I sit abyss at your brink.
Does not the conscious rise up.
Does not the unconscious sink down.
Peaceful beautiful face
you help me.
Deepening valley at your brink.

THE ROCK

You climbed down from your mighty rock.
Looked at me looked at the rock.
‘What a beautiful rock,’ you said my child.
‘What can a rock like that have in it?
Surely it must be something beautiful?’

A rock is a being enchanted
by the earth, child.
It cannot fall deeper
than that earth receives.
But if the earth stops.
If it disintegrates
or fire surges out of its entrails
or a strong quaking a violent shaking
pass through it
then the rock will hurtle falling
down down down
until new earth comes to meet it.

‘And what if it hits against something harder than itself?’
Then the rock will split into many small fragments
which all of them each and every one
are the rock and only the rock
that contain nothing but rock.

‘And what if no new earth comes?’
Then the rock will fall eternally forever.

FEVER CHART

A world a ball of fire
torn loose from its orbit
hurtles through space
hurtles without peace
falls without blessedness
finds no coolness.
Hurtling hurtling falling
fires through space.

Earth into earthlessness casts out what earth will not
acknowledge.

Without peace or rest
restless without peace
peaceless in the land of a thousand lakes
torn in the barbed-wire land of many limits.
A mother-tongue a weight
towers of brick hurtle smother fall
mountains of rock transform rock.
A land where the fathers lived
but they rushed past
abandoned for centuries: stranger
in the prehistoric land.

But what concern is peace of yours
what concern joy blessedness?
Blessedness was never a concern of yours
you want to go to Inferno
to the people there
you rush you fly
their locks burn in fire
and yet are not consumed
in Inferno the people are pure
pure though without peace
the fire inextinguishable equal.

What is life to you
what is death to you
what is anything to you
what is fever to you
what is tiredness to you?

You are dead.
What is the child to you
what is even the child to you?
Feverish illusions
the veils of tiredness
they are something to you
they are still something to you.

Give

child’s way of seeing

give

eyes

joy.

In Inferno the people are pure
like the fire
burning inextinguishable
and alike

THE CRY

There is a cry in the forest:
I want to go home
the keys have fallen
the paths have disappeared
I cannot get there
I am badly frightened
I have frightened myself very very badly
they have frightened
I have frightened
I want to go home to the dolls there at home
home to the stove the fire the hearth.

THE SWALLOWS FLY

The swallows fly
high
in towards bluer sky
low
down beneath darkening clouds.

In the midst of the state of mighty never
in the interior of the mine
one can see what was not seen
hear what was not heard
feel what was not felt:
buried alive.

BURN WITCHES

Burn witches
witches bewitched ones burn
bewitched in witchery by witchery
taken
witches burn
you guilt’s enchanted
burn to death in fire
you who never were
it was in the land of somewhere
you who always were
it was in the land of elswhere
burn burn to death
that which ever was
it was in the land of nowhere
self that seldom was
it was here in this land
all of you burn burn to death!

NARCISSUS

All your words came to me with another meaning
a sealed meaning.
Beyond your words I sensed your faces.
The faces you bear are not your real ones.
You were disguised masked veiled.
Your unveiled faces are more beautiful
you were all prisoners in the veiled.
You hinted you insinuated you concealed
but all this did not reach its goal
it was stabs in blind scratches in the skin
the real was always much further away
it sometimes reaches us like an echo
it is the game that perpetually must fly.
Who says that Narcissus has been enchanted by his own
image?
Whoever it is has never looked into the water.
Few have looked into the water.
Whoever has seen his own face in the mirror of the water
has seen all the others’.
Whoever leans over the water
and perceives his image
will not return, he will vanish.
Your unveiled faces come to me
they are beautiful
unalterable because true
they reach their goal
the truth is always beautiful
redeeming freeing giving.
I am divided from you by a singing stream
you will never reach me again.

From far away sometimes an echo reaches me.

MARCEL PROUST

You were the slave of your false fancies.
In this paradox such an irony:
your life
the child’s struggle to become a man
the man’s struggle to renounce being a man
the youth’s struggle to remain a youth
to die old
who was more powerful:
the sultan or sickness?
Scheherezade or imagination?
And who was the one
who the other:
one gaze was turned away
another turned towards.
The loving was cruel
the cruel was loving.
Thus is a life motivated
thus is born an idea with variations
without end
Am I different?
Were the others different?
Was anyone different?
The same thing manifests itself differently.
Everywhere prisoners
enchanted
sick.
Everywhere a virgin concealed
(out of the sea she rose
into the sea she fell
ebb and flow)
bewitched
captured by dragons and djinns
pursued even into the secret castle’s
most secret interior.
Where now is Françoise the French the fresh
holding the pillar upright?

The Duchess’s feet are shod in those brilliant red shoes
when anyone dies
the Duke hurries off to another masked ball
and the haste of the disputatious doctors is stilled.
(Just observe
the nervousness
among the individual animals
the individual plants!)
During solemn speeches
with measured gestures
they give themselves time
prepare the poisoned brew
the brew that initiates
into the last redeeming transformation.
In this paradox
who was more powerful?
The one already condemned to death has fled
a strange object lies there.
The books stand on the shelves.

The sensitive is fleeting and profound
it couples badly
slyly or briefly with the sensual real
it contracts to the touch
grows speechless blind
loses its grip
finds no refuge
withdraws
couples with a mobile clear vision untouched
turned away
(sultan: you were never any concern of mine!)
turned towards
the intellectual
regains
finds connection.

HAMLET

Behind the forehead is the realm of the dreams.
But your forehead bears the seal of peace.

Monologues wonder softly
if life is more than death
if death is more than life
if the two might not be reconciled
they quarrel in the realm of the brain
tear apart the realm of the heart.
You sob are bitter
joke jeer
mock
degrade all that is holy.
Give me back my reason
O lord our king!
Behind the forehead is the realm of dreams
Dreams dream that dreams
dream that dreams that dreams.
Dreaming you dream
to an end
know no way out
no end.
Where is the road
the path
the pass
out of the dreams?
for dreams only dream
more dreams to dream
dreaming they dream themselves out
know no end
where is the road
the path
the pass?
here there are only dreams
O lord our existence!
You are just an imagining
yet so despotic
where is the dreams’ way out?
when will the dreams come to an end?
O sovereign over life!
O queen death!
Let me out!

The queen is near.
The king by her side.
How were the dreams woven behind your forehead?
Here is the father.
Here is the mother.
There is the child.
The king is near.
The queen at his side.
You do not see them.
Ophelia is married
has children.
Ophelia is already a matron.
You see none of them
You know none of them.
You hear none of them.
You want none of them.
You want to go behind the realm of the forehead.
You want your inner realm.

Behind the forehead is the realm of the dreams.
But your forehead bears the seal of peace.
Where you lean your forehead
in the moon’s reversed sign
O Prince of Denmark!
in the moon’s transforming radiance
in the pellucid night
there the realm of peace is mirrored.

DESCARTES

You discovered the meaning of reason
of logic
of consistency
of anti-mysticism
of irreligiosity.

You rushed to the church
you called to the Virgin Mary for protection.
You were logical
you perceived
the consistent.

SPINOZA

Out of simplicity
into multiplicity
composed of simplicity
through simplicity
deduced from simplicity
leading to multiple
simplicity
again leading onward
to new multiplicity
simple deductions
conclusions
all the way to the most
simple thing of all
the simplest simplicity
arch-simple:
(god!)
the whole.

NIJINSKY

How long after all can a story exist
a poem
and be treated as real?
Unreal real
real unreal.
Do not come too close to me!
I am dance I am song.
Do not make me real!
Reality kills.
The spirit of the dance cannot be captured in a number.
The immaterial cannot become material.
The finely-drawn cannot be made crude.
That which is without artifice cannot be made artificial.
The swift cannot be transformed into the sluggish.
Do not treat me as real!
A paradox cannot be resolved into simpler factors.
A paradox is a paradox
an explanation challenge exhortation
a flame
clear in itself
declaration of love
with no other answer than love
is a synthesis.
In the synthesis the spirit of mobility is
captured
the spirit of the dance.
The synthesis lifts its wings
is mobile in a different way from heavy analysis
it rises above its captured mobility
and is mobile in the mobile in mobility mobile
in every nerve intermediary nerve inner nerve outer nerve
in every nerve-fine nerve’s nervous nerve’s
nerve of nerve-fineness nerve-resilience
nerve of nervous nervosity that is nerve
that lives nervily nervously nerve-finely
strong-nervedly resilient-nervedly nerve-susceptibly
nerve-sensitively in nerve’s nerve-receptivity
in every nerve’s nerve that again is nerve
that lives nervily nervously intensely nervily
most nervily in stillest movement
in the unseen play of muscles compelled
muscularly muscular sinewily energetically resiliently
controlledly muscularly museanly musically
sounding silence’s movements of stillness.
That is dance. Now I dance it.

I the spirit of winged dance
rise fall fall rise
fly in Indian dance.

FREUD

You who do not want to believe
you have never looked into your brains
I have looked into my brain
I have looked into a shaft
I have burrowed in a mine.
Forty years I burrowed
Moses in the desert in a mine
half a human lifetime
until I got there
A trauma lifted
a pressure vanished
I was inside the vein
brilliant gold flowed out.
Half a human lifetime
in order to get there.
I am in the subconscious.
Another half
in order to will the pure.
My patience is long
as the prophet’s in the desert.
A cry comes from mountain peaks:
‘I am a stranger
in a land that is not my own.’
I am making it my own.
I will only be content
with the best
the best in man.
Sediment is not water.
I will only be content with water
clear fresh from the primordial source.

Death analyses so inexorably in syntheses that vary the varying theme varied
monotonously monotone the varying in the infinite’s nuances develops grows the
theme that which was fettered in order to fetter all over again more and more
fetter more clearly more inexorably fetter the already fettered until caught
in the captivity of the final synthesis it lifts its wings and flies through
the transparent thinness out into the great nothing. Nothingness is all.

SIMONE WEIL

Israelites
people of the exception:
in the depths of the people except
let go under
I do not belong to you.
Human beings human beings only
everywhere human beings not exceptions:
I the daughter of men
am going to the very bottom
lower than God’s chosen people
through torment shame
annealed in the fire of the camps gassed gassed to death
I love the human being
in the mine in the shaft
black sweaty sooty
laughing childishly
with hungering thought
playing eyes living.
Do not turn arithmetic into figures
arithmetic is not figures
the arithmetic sings in Greece
sounds in Hellas
do not turn geometry into figures
a vibrating field it shines
listen in through hearing’s shell
no longer incomprehensible you will get
silence out:
swift fire of the pulse-beats how it oscillates
pendulates
quiet incalculably not perceptibly not in second
far from minute

unassuming.

In vineyards I tread grapes
meet there in the past in Hellas
the human being sun-drenched happy called the Messiah
invisible lonely
to be nameless is to be lonely
to be lonely is to be without form.
Raise raise up!
the position of the people of the exception
there are no exceptions
I deny
I am burning
burning to death
all are equal
suffering makes equal
I give you of my brain
make use make use of that knowledge!
Man cannot be cured
logic does not count in figures
cannot be exterminated you will exterminate man’s soul!
Man cannot be turned into a number
arithmetic is something different from numbers.
geometry is something different from shapes.
Only listen:
lives in the logic of the universe
in the love of the universe
must lead to love
to the effacement of the exception.
Raise raise up!
All proud ones are chosen ones
in love humbled transforming logical

PALMS OF HANDS

Palms of hands spread out with no skin
soft kneecaps’ command
will not let go of crooked legs
soles of feet yearn for skin
toothless mouth
endless weeping
from wells of sorrow
newborn child.

I WRITE

I write it shows in the eyes of the dog
it creeps in the paw of the cat
it shimmers in the solitary fly’s pair of wings
it leaps in foaling withers
it flies in the flight of birds
it flies
it sinks
in the earth down under roots
it smiles in the infant’s eyes
it grows in the eyes of children
it wonders in young eyes
it yearns in human eyes.

– translation © 2011 David McDuff

Solveig von Schoultz

Poems by Solveig von Schoultz (1907-1996)

30. XI. 1939

That day, too, became night.
The light our lantern threw
Past house after empty house
Shook on asphalt, empty and blue.
We walked on windows’ torn corpses,
On a broken splintering seam
Carefully, as if somewhere
There lay hidden a scream.
But the street was already dead.
Walls from wounds grown grey
Stood with grief-dimmed eyes.
Here children stood yesterday.
Acrid and alien
The smoke from fires passed us there.
The window nearest our lantern
Gaped speechless and bare.
Curtains stiff with soot.
A night wind made them roam.
They lifted like black wings,
Birds without a home.

My Time Is Brief

The holy disquiet knocked at my door.
‘I haven’t the time, I’m baking my bread,
the dough is rising, the oven is red.
Wait, as you’ve had to wait before.’

The holy disquiet went from my door.

The holy disquiet tried my lock.

‘Don’t come near me, my child is fresh,
It’s sucking my blood, my marrow, my flesh.
Leave me alone with my son, I say.’

The holy disquiet went away.

The holy disquiet stood in my house.

‘The chimney is smoking, haven’t you seen?
I’m sweeping my neighbour’s kitchen clean.
My children are crying. But nice you should call.’

The holy disquiet turned from my hall.

The holy disquiet sat by my bed.

‘Oh, is it you? I’m too tired now,’ I said.
‘I would have loved you young or dead.
Was there something you wanted? My time is brief.’

The holy disquiet left, trembling with grief.

The Water Butt

The water butt by the corner
has an eye that I love.
In the morning it laughs
when the aconites borrow its mirror
adorning themselves for the butterflies,
in the heat it lies shadowy, out of reach,
talking to the honeysuckle’s leaves,
sometimes it plays with the children
curling pygmy waves for their bark boats,
but only at night, when children and grown-ups are gone,
does the eye come wide awake
grow clear and listen,
open itself to the darkness above the pines,
in a cool lap girding
Aldebaran.

Accept It

Accept it, God.
I give you my defeat.
Take in your strong hands
the knife that cut.
Cut deeper,
cut bolder. I am said to be hard.
Prise my shell loose,
the dark shell I carry.
Force in your knife
and tell me, God: is the kernel there?
I close my eyes, await the knife.
Cut.

Prayer

Linger, bread, between my hands,
Give warmth of life, O you, divinely generous,
and let me put my cheek against your rough bark,
faithful bread.

How happy your brown scents are:
corn grown sweet in sun, dark kiln, the rattle of grain.
Blood has flowed into you from the earth’s entrails,
blushing bread.

Pagan women shaped you with their spells
and Christian crosses set a ring around your holy bed:
dark weapons were surrendered before your eye,
mortals’ bread.

Venerable bread, you that saw the origin of the ancient families,
you, born from soil, interred in soil and born again,
do not forsake us on the last day,
merciful bread.

She-Bird

Like a woman, hesitant and caught
amidst life’s blond and downy-feathered years,
a mother, bowed at low beds, who forgot
to look up where the midday sun appears,
she upped and left her warm and twilit nest,
now grown too small for all her brood and her.
She found a truth where she’d refused to trust.
She found that summer had stepped far, O far.

Her feathers were still sleek and brilliant,
her breast still soft from nights of harmony.
And suddenly she knew just what life meant:
one brief, hot summer, woman, you have left.
One brief, hot summer. Hurry. You are late.
And then? The journey that is mystery.
A day in early autumn — clear, mercy-bereft.

The Woman of Samaria

At the sixth hour our thirst enlarged
and the man in my bed bit my heel
and said: water.

And I sounded hollow as my pitcher
and my throat was sticky as from sacrificial blood
and my loathing was like sweat.

And I bore my pitcher to Jacob’s well
throughout years of clear, red hopelessness:
to thirst in the midst of thirst.

And lo, a stranger sat on the well’s stone rim
beneath the merciless dark blue
wrapped in the folds of his rest.

And the man’s voice sank into my pitcher’s clay:
if you drink this water
you will thirst to eternity.

That was at the sixth hour. The sun was absorbed
into his eye and grew as narrow as a spear
urgently burning its path.

And the man stepped into my gaze
and men stood concealed there, he touched them
and walked past their ashes.

That was at the sixth hour. And my thirst
lay exposed as a riverbed, dark brown
in its arid immensity.

By the panting furrow he bent down:
I will give you the springing water
I will give you living water.

And the coolness sank from my throat to my heel.
I hear the aching tremor from deep within me.
My brim is dark with moisture.

I will rise and go. I do not know where.
A sea has been born in me. I do not know how.
One thing I know: living water.

The Heart

We gave her seed; not much,
but enough so she would not grow tired;
water we gave her, a thimbleful,
to remind her of the source.
We opened the door a tiny way,
so the heavens would smite her in the eye
and we fastened a bit of mirror to her cage
so she could look straight into the cloud.
Quiet she sat, with flickering wings.

That way she sang.

Nocturnal Meadow

Here, this meadow:
the small, bright clearing of awareness
fenced and fertilised, mown to the furthest corners
where the dog’s muzzle of night-scented herbs nosed round his knees
round the boot-strides of safety.

Intrusive rustlings around scant clearing
covetously bent black walls inwards
invisibly crawled and gorged
and eyes watched, claws sharpened, wings rose
hear the warning rattle, the raucous gutturals of fate.

But still his meadow:
the light bottom of the deep-murmuring well.
And like a glass-clear cube eternity shot
straight up with spiracles at the Plough
as it moved on its mighty wheels.

Woman Cleaning Fish

With my long brown arms
I hurl entrails into the sea
wind and perch-scales fight around my throat
seaweed washes my toes
the corpses yawn
— there! My heart quivering with white lumps of fat
has taken a nose-dive; a scream
— you, omnivorous stomach grinding down like and unlike
sway in the seaweed
I don’t want to see you
— you, yellow gall, you insult to the sun
stinking bitterness
may the old corpse-crayfish take you
take the snaking subterfuge of my intestines
the cowardly constipation of mouldy memories
— with my long arms
I hurl the seagulls’ brazen laughter
tear slimy membranes
snort my blood, I will scrunch and rinse
vomit out into contemptuous cold and salt-green:
neat white flesh and a few angry spines.

The Sewing Machine

Here, in a secret alcove between the laundry basket and the kitchen
the objects that were hers crowded together under a brown wooden cover:
the trusty, sharp scissors that cut dreams to ribbons, the infinite patience of the spools
and the small pins with the motley-coloured heads of countless worries.
Here her years ran along sprouting seams
smoothed beneath a dutiful thimble.

What held them together was this: patched-up sheets,
that the worn can old be made to do, that the hopeless can be rescued.
But slowly rescue became more difficult and meaningless:
the aching of the wheel, that had been there all along,
pressed up through this: this is how it is supposed to be,
and grew dark and turned to suspicious bewilderment
and she stopped her treading and saw she was alone.

Patience

Behind what you say there is something else.
The visible is crazed by alleyways.
Scent of prophylactic herbs,
grape hyacinths’ courage.
Behind your fragments all is whole.
Hidden horses on nocturnal meadows.
Smiles, alerted, at our ignorance.
Death is only a river flowing inward
towards the plain whose name is trust.
Loneliness and hunger are only now.
How will we recognise ourselves
in the hour our purpose is made known,
and there is nothing in vain?

Lazarus

Three days he had lain wrapped in his resolve
with dark stains in the region of his cere-cloth:
the eyelids: they had renounced everything,
lowered over stifled vanity;
the nose; its haughty monument
to evaporated memories of happiness
before the bitter lips dried up the tongue
repenting of its fluttering to and fro;
the ears: a final lock
behind which he was at last himself
in a cavern of astonished silence,
yet most silent of all his hands
with brooding knuckles: all is in vain.

Like a bulb beneath layers of the past
a memory wintered in his heart,
a small, whitish sliver of fear,
but even this was making ready to die.
When, through the caverns of silence, a blow reached him,
a trumpet of light, and he answered with silence
stiffening inside his averted shell

until the trembling lashed him again
the close pounding of alien light
and the sliver of fear swelled in his heart
and with his dead body Lazarus cried: No.

The trumpet of the command.
An unbearable pain
streamed in his limbs, a violent light
a death to light, the bursting of the stiff bandages —
Lazarus. Arise.

Tree

There is no other way than to become more tree.
Make it up with the soil. The soil: eternally the same.
The stones the same.
The gravel the same.
Nailed for all time to this: immovability.
To move in the tree’s direction:
deeper down.

Can a tree that loves storms become a storm?
The tree can do no other than to rend its crown.
Be shaken through by cries
the tree the nailed-fast soughing
born to be tree
drives its longing inward
into the form of tree.

The dark-shadowed grows broader. Broad
the pillar descends and without vertigo sings greater
towards the cloud its heart of leaves
rest for all that travels
safety for birds and for the seeds
forever in motion
deep in its innermost wood.

There is no way than to become more tree.

The Pike

I am the pike.
Yellow-ringed green and black:
tough-tailed triumph.
To me unlimited power is given.

Who are you?
I took your bait.
Its seduction gleams inside me.
Never think I have regrets.
I wanted. I took.

True: it hurts
under my powerful heart.
But rarely: in soft spasms.
What do you want of me? Sport?
Do not think you have me.
It amuses me to come when you call.
Sometimes, to strike terror into your heart
with my sudden-stealing back.

But away!
Away from your evil eye
in tail-tenebrous whistle and whirl
nosediving into night
— my spawning-time’s shadowclear hunting-ground
my quivering small-fry my ripping jaws
my arrow-flight’s hissing will —
Go on.
Tear your barb under my wild heart.
Is it death I have swallowed?

But will you take me alive?
Never.

The Cloud

Slowly the cloud came loose and drifted over the river,
the baleful cloud the landscape had dreamt.
It moved in melancholy towards another night.
In the dream the riverbanks had flowed out into the water.
They stopped, still afraid, in their flight.
Colourless light flowed in over low reeds,
sparkling in the meadow’s rough stubble.
A buzzard burst from the banks’ uncertainty and rose
higher, until he had conquered the meadow
higher, until he alone possessed the morning’s cries
and higher, until he lay down on his strength and floated
with the brazen sun concealed in his wings:
grey and brown quiverings of light.

June Sauna

This is the body’s joy this side of age and sex:
to curl one’s toes against a sooty wall
to stripe the skin of one’s back against a baking bench
to roll shadows around in the pit of one’s stomach

to be stabbed in the eye by the peephole, small, rage-boiling green
the frayed dotted curtain
the inquisitive clump of nettles
to snort at a hissing alder whisk

to gasp for blessed air by the steaming groan of the stones
distil guile from one’s skin
scoop innocence from the water butt
to be smoothed childlike and shining wet

to crawl glowing away from the little sootblack island
absent-mindedly chew sorrel
ice-cold whortleberry flowers
whistle at the wood-dove’s weeping music

and behind a bush perform one’s evening prayer.

The Pasture

The lantern is small
for those who must walk through the pasture at night
bobbing it lights
by glimpses and hardly at all
bares itself
followed by unfathomable eyes

sends sudden beams quivering:
a coarse hoof gleams in the mire

a step away that which has no name
jostles in masticating darkness
moans, shifts dully,
crushing twigs beneath its weight

arches the whites of its eyes
the lantern lights by glimpses

when it has gone
the pasture will be dark as before
the millennia will continue to murmur
and the tangled spruce trees will rock to and fro
their view concerning the stars

Pain

You threw me off.
A hail of stones
lashed my face and your hooves
vanished in glowing embers.

I know you will return
quivering, lathered.
And I shall mount you:
my spurs thirst for your hide
I shall mount you: tame your rebellion between my knees
and we shall travel forward together
as one
tautly, silently stepping,
one for one.

The Room Overlooking the River

The only calm is to break one’s calm,
to know when the water grows stagnant and acquires a smell of death.
False is the calm on a windless shore
and the house of safety has closed-up shutters.
But give me this room of river-blue air
with walls that are still empty,
this naked floor of boards
running together towards one thing: the window,
open to the flowing water of night and day.
There deceit will be washed away
in small, wicked eddies
and day and night will sough away
small pieces of myself.
Until I am as naked and hard as the floor overlooking the river
until chance takes wing like clouds of autumn finches
until I stand open like a window
on the brown sun of change.

Three Sisters

The woman stooped down and picked up her child
and her hair fell over her face
and inside her a little old woman
withered and clear-eyed
stooped down with trembling head
to pick up her knitting
and inside her
a young girl stooped down to pick up her doll
with tender hands
three sisters
who would never see one another.

Old Woman

The head had a life of its own:
on a withered neck
it raised its tower of experience.
The roof of grey grown thin
crowned its weatherbeatenness
watery recesses
stared from networks of care
small elephant-grey stones
hard with wisdom.
The head had an age of its own.
The head: a tyrant.
The body: a subjugated land
the shoulders modestly young
with dry, white skin.
The body, delayed in dreams
of waterlilies and blood.

An Unknown Beak

An unknown beak pierced my breast
and there it stayed while the bird drank
and there I stayed
almost without pain
for as long as the bird sucked my blood with its beak sucked deeper
I did not know
if I had bled to death or become a bird.

Rest

Inside unhappiness it is quiet, everyone has gone past,
all doors are shut, you hear no sound.
Sparse furnishings, unaired darkness
but rest,
face and body against hard floor
but rest
and a strange dream about God.

Sisyphus

Thus far was he shown mercy
or its opposite:
at the moment he had heaved the boulder to the top
relief raised him up
straightened his back
forgetfulness filled his head
with a thin cool breeze
and this moment lasted just long enough
for him to regain faith and apply his weight
to the boulder again.

The Cell

Gradually he learned it.
He was very seldom there.
Sometimes, when his head hit the wall
he would return to his body
and rediscover terror.
Someone had permitted his escape.
Perhaps it was God.
He travelled far and wide.

Conversation

For forty years they had lived with each other
and the language was growing harder and harder to understand
at first they had known a few words
later on they made do with nods:
bed and food.
For forty years they had coped with the day-to-day.
Their faces grew calmer, like stones.
But sometimes a chance interpreter appeared:
a cat, an unusual sunset
they would listen with an air of unease
try to answer
they were already speechless.

Then

And then, when God had burned down on every branch
man stood
a Christmas tree bereft of needles
looking around in the daylight
dimly remembering
something that had made him shine.

The Dolls

But when she looked at all those years
she found they had turned into dolls, with rigid eyes
some dozing, some wide and transparently awake
some dressed in finery, with undulating hair
some naked, with breasts and slender arms
but all unable to move, all in a row
she stuffed them into a sack and pulled the cord
now they are gone
now they are truly gone

The Poor Man’s Lamb

The poor man’s only lamb slept in the poor man’s lap
and was like a daughter to him
eating out of the poor man’s bowl near the poor man’s beard
warming her wool at the poor man’s sorrowful heart
roughly licking the constant hand that firmly
held on to his sole possession:
his daughter.

Hold her trotters firmly, the lamb is dancing in a dream
where? On the rich man’s farm where the lambs are many
the gambollings quivering-high and the air untrammelled
where the lambs drink muzzle to muzzle from the spring
and lie down with blissful trotters
on green meadows where they find rest.

Death is like King David
with his melancholy crown of gold
death gathers treasures and gives nothing away
but even death will have to answer
for what it has done to the poor man.
Only the lamb has rest

the lamb has escaped from her father
and the pen of her loyalty.

The Angel

On my shelf stands a little angel of wood
with gilded wings and a halo like a hat.
I was given him once a long time ago
by someone who believed in angels
right then I needed
a guardian angel (it’s a need that has grown no less).
He has had a hard job.
He has lost
one of his wings, he has fallen off the shelf
during the struggle with Satan (not a stranger here)
and his gold paint has flaked off.
But his obstinacy
is as great as Satan’s, he goes on standing
here he promised to stand, a little angel
with a broken wing and a halo like a hat.

The Burning Glass

As when in spring
one focuses the sunlight in a burning glass
watching the heat grow narrow
the paper blacken
and a little dot inside
begin to glow
so also should despair
burn holes in silence.

The Pole Star

The pole star in the universe clings to itself
however much the earth may turn
however the stars may be confused
the pole star stands by its constancy.
So do I.
If I steer a steady course
nailed to the one thing I know
the uttermost and only thing I know
I can exchange glances with God.

Easter Suite

I

In childhood’s days Good Friday fastened still
as did the sky above the hill’s strong pines
deep blue and brightly scrubbed and without end.
One wore one’s Sunday best, as did the sky,
and was constrained to silence, and no games.
Brown fronds of willow stood in glass-blown jars
whose water contained ice, first buds of spring
that waited to be free to shed their scales.
Beneath the stones on hillsides lizards lay
in frozen boulders waiting for the sun.
We spoke low-voiced, and our own waiting grew
in shining expansivity, and made
our long Good Friday more prolonged. No games.
It was so still one walked about on tiptoe,
listening. But what happened then occurred
So deep and still that nothing could be heard.

II

How can one not submit?
No gaze is so radiant and dark blue
penetrating everywhere, into the snowdrift
that, hissing, collapses into the ice
that waits with red lakes, and into the heart
where winter still holds out
how can one not submit?

What death lures us with: so easy to live
when one is dead. Simply to cease to hear
and cease to see. Simply to seal the chinks
around a dark, eternal mirror-calm.
O peace, O wondrous inward-moving peace
O lack of dread. To turn one’s eyes within
on depths that do not move, and never will,
and merely silently reflect themselves.
o to walk among all living creatures
and be dead.

IV

This fearful leavetaking of winter
the pulse of revolt beating and beating
just as much inside us as outside us
already the willows are reddening
already the water is clattering under the snow
the light compels the transformation on us
unconcerned with what is dying
the ice is made to leave like love gone grey
there is no refuge
death defends itself and makes the cold more keen.

V

The lower the sun
the bluer the ice, keener blue sword-sharp
the redder the catkins of the alder
the harder the birch-buds in the smoke from the sauna
Rigid, the buckthorn clutches towards the stone
but the snow burns like cold fire.

VI

No one heard the swans that night
but still the shore is white as outstretched necks
and the water on the melting ice dark metal
like the eyes of birds.

Out of the sea of seals rises the Easter god
with pike in his hands
dark brown from solar laughter
he breaks off a willow-fork
he plods heavily in the snow
he divines the water’s path.
he willow-fork wrenches itself downward
and stays impetuously turned
towards the secret things beneath the ground.

Where are the newborn lambs?
The ones that are newly broken forth
on high, trembling legs.
Let us see newborn lambs
now as the sun is deepened, hovering
low over the darkening ice on the lakes
now when the air is becoming a bubbling density
and the grouse are erupting over the floes.

– translation © 2011 David McDuff

Rabbe Enckell

Poems by Rabbe Enckell (1903-1974)

I cannot imitate
time’s grey patina.
I love all that is new and inimitable.
I paint the earth
in the brilliant varnish of the spring torrent.
The sharp odour of freshly painted wood
will not quickly leave my works.

*

The sunny mass
of the Acropolis
does not frighten me.
I have seen
the Finnish knoll’s
grey barn,
its temple-like
proportions
rising
weightless
towards the infinite expanse
of the spring sky.

*

The calf of one summer surveys the earth with glistening eyes.
In his great black eyeball swim the cloud and the brook’s foam and the springtime’s colourless gnat flits from the green birch leaves
to be reflected in it
as if it were one of the forest’s blind pools.

*

Miniature Poetry’

The morning dew has placed small weights
in the dew-cup’s bowl — the scales are even.
With quivering blades the lawn checks
the weight of each drop.
But the sun dips his finger in the dew so that nothing is left. And the nettles in the ditch know full well
that the dew’s weights are merely bunglers’ trinkets compared to the gigantic river in Pernambuco.

*

I am the springtime’s deepest
cistern
filled with water.
I am keeping quiet.
But one day
the forest will talk about me.

*

Huutokoski

Here in the forest’s
dry-muzzled summer
my thoughts were aroused to defiance,
the heat threw into my senses
a shadow all too dark.

*

You smile at
my little matchstick poems.
Their harmlessness has become legendary.
But it is better to have a box of them in one’s pocket than to sleep with ten fire extinguishers in the house. They have made do
with brightly illuminating my face when they are lit
– and then going out.

*

God.
We wander in your light
in order to grasp your impossibility.
It swings
like an arc lamp in the storm
sending giant shadows dancing
over our motionless houses.

*

1.

I am an over-civilised
mouse.
Take me in the flat of your hand,
feel how I twitch and tremble
with nerve-reactions.
Life
thousand-fingered
strums
its cats’ waltz
in my ear.

2.

I have only one thought.
If life picks up its scent
it will crush me.
My soul is nothing but trust.
If it lets me down
I will have spasms of hunger in a flourbin,
will leap unprotected by instinct
straight into the fire.

*

I am greedier for my welfare
than the ant is for the grass-blade.
If anyone’s hand comes too near me
I spew ant-piss.
My whole being cranes up on two legs with quivering antennae.
My abdomen bends forward in a bow.
Under the lens you can see my spite in all its glory.

*

The Goods Wagon

I have been shunted onto the wrong track
and stand, a lonely wagon at the buffers.
Grey, I look in at the yellow edges of the forest.
I stand in the rain — the twilight dilates
but I will never reach my destination.

*

What I wrote
was a romantic compulsion.
I wanted to be imprisoned in
the dying shimmer
of a word,
to raise the echo of a past emotion.
I wanted to escape
to the world of the forest,
its dark meditations,
to find
satiety in a beast-like dream.
But luckily imagination’s silver ring
fell from my finger.
The horizon of flying images
has grown dark.
In the mirror of a magic lake
the light grows fainter and will not return.
Only thought lingers,
doubly dear to a freed eye.

*

Melody

A bird’s warble flies
like a swivel-bait cast over waves.
A splash of the morning light’s gold leaf
around giddying rotation
spun out
into the very fibre of disappearance.

*

In Rome

In Rome the heat strikes rings in lime-dry air
the eye is blinded
and the soul’s dust cakes one’s eyebrows.

In the shadow of the arch I stand as on a mountain’s shoulder
facing the sea of sun, and the fountain’s splashing reaches me
with noise and voices from the dark, much-changing faces of life.

All the gaudy baroque droops like chrysanthemums in the heat.
Imperceptibly time boils dry
like the moisture in the marble basin — sucked up and forever renewed.

There behind drapery the coolness of a church’s nave
and the body’s yearning slinks in like a lizard over chiselled stone.

*

As distant as the sun is from the winter blaze in a red cloud,
as distant as —! Day has altered to evening and the rosy shimmer
becomes magic darkness. Silently memory still tours
along roads whose dust
constantly recalls things that are lost.

Memory’s veil, at first transparent as the wave of heat above clear fire,
grows heavy and opaque as the shadow in a ravine.
The sheer ravine of time
plunges straight into our souls.

Beaten in the iron of terror they intercept a sound
that echoes in our hearts’ pulse; where and when?
The horn of Roland calls
deep within the light-branched, leafy forest.

Bust of Juno

Eye cooled by day, hair bound by marble
Junonian sun and the forehead’s vault:
a mask for the depth of Hades’ oblivion,
an underworld with river-waves
frozen in onyx and life’s cyphers
dispelled like a dream —
Nothing will paralyse the power of the dumbness
unjoined by commanding times far hence upon the marble. Nothing will kindle the fire
in her eyes; with her soul turned away,
swathed in the mantle of time’s distance
she meets, powerful in resemblance, day’s sun.

*

Longing appeals at heart to the change in all things.
The deed, once lofty and sun-illumined
is turned to a vessel consecrated in the darkness of the obscure past.
And the life which still like Pallas stands forth from the god’s helmet
will soon radiate from a world, metamorphosed by visions, embraced by death.
Time, forever ready to create
in our place the greatness that evades us,
makes us all, on the front we occupy,
into stubbornly silent deserters, happy in longing.

*
The eyelids stiffen. Liver-brown shadows gather
under the eye.
The heart
pumps the aching blood of fear. A void
expands infinitely —
In the brain, a windless murmuring.
The eye looks in a mirror
as sick and smarting as a salt steppe.
A movement! And chaos
floods through your veins, shrouding
your body in a veil of blind pain.

*

The poverty that came to me
in silent years of childhood
is the treasure I covetously hoard.
The wheel-ruts of the slow roads,
the drying-hurdles steaming in the evening sun,
the mist over the lake
conceal what I hardly know how to miss:
conceal my sense of loss itself.
O rich inheritance of poverty.
Out of loyalty’s unequivocal heart
the star has risen.
Its name is constancy.

*

Towards Ithaca

In sleep he is borne by waves
homewards where night and north
sweep space and immovably
the constellation of Heracles
raises its lever.

Is borne away by complete oblivion,
rich, powerful, weaving patterns of sound
squandering the nets of time
swell sinking
beneath its own fate.

He is borne so he shall not be
where flames lick up from Eos’ dawn;
only homeward and nightward —
the sleep of gods
‘most akin to death’.

Chante-clair

High in November day flames your golden trumpet.
o herald, many times before now
your sentinel’s cry has summoned men
to strife — and proudly kindled
the fire in their minds and their impatient fighting spirit:
Still in your cry
the banner of revolt flutters before the rebel,
the clear voice of lofty obedience
is announced
to willing hearts.
— Borne far away across the dying coxcombs of the echo
on the dizzying hunt for fortune
you are
the first message to strike home;
at the door of pale suffering and treachery,
the last warning —

The Heart

The longer life continues
the more like a dream
it becomes.
Heart, sore pressed,
soon you will rest unburdened beneath
oblivion’s heaviest garlands
with the sparing blossom of memory.
All will exist only as the guest
and closest friend of death.
Yet — undying ivy will guard
the room of your pain.

*

Poets
compelled to poetry!
The blind satisfaction,
recognition sweet as the scent
of lily-of-the-valley, gentle but numbing, said nothing to you.
You, that lived
on sparing, inaccessible insight:
bitter roots
of a soil dragged
from afar as though in defiance
of the nearness of that sea
stingily tended to earthly needs —
You, fishermen by a storm-heavy coast,
faces flushed with cold,
day-labourers of uncertainty,
patient tillers of poetry’s Aran!
Your table unacquainted with victuals
that are not the product of your spirit’s power.
You, poets
of the difficult school!

Oedipus at the Sea

Here on the shore of the shadowless
the shadow fly —
You touch me with unfamiliar hands,
feel my face as though you yourself were blind
and with a blind man’s groping fingers sought
someone. At your touch I am
like a child —
around unkempt, grey-grown beard
you flutter mercifully,
tug at it in play.
Why can I not see you? Yet see you,
see you, sensing your depth.
Gentle as the repetition in a nurse’s songs
with their more direct way
to the heart —

The misery of a human life
weighs lightly, 0 sea, in your embrace.
The two Nereids All Things Must Pass and Sleep While There is Time
strew your bed with windwashed asters and fragrant mint.
The mist kisses one of your eyes,
the sun the other.
The night manifests its reconciliation in golden text.
However nimbly the Fate spins her thread in the here and now
for you she will always be too late,
and her action in vain.
Here on your shore
with my feet finally tamed,
here I sense that the bitterness in my life
is not towards you, that it is not you
that sickens my spirit. All that flees
to you finds a refuge.
You: who bid complaint be silent
with your hand gently laid upon the lips of lamentation,
with a divinity in your depths —
I see in everything not what it is
but what it means.
I wish that I lived in some context.
I wish that words
would find their way to me: vermin huddled beneath a stone.
There is life beneath a stone and the form of the most high
dwells in all that there is room for in this world.
That which is inside is easy.
It is as easy as Ariel and the west wind:
goes sweeping through every kernel, every word.
From the underworld nothing can be saved.
But spring is a launching board for all that goes outward.
There death’s trademark is valid as any other.

O Bridge of Interjections…

O bridge
of interjections,
you that pass over half of life in silence
and half of death
and yet are filled with life and death,
you that like a river reflect the banks
announcing their depth
0without revealing or betraying
what is hidden by merciful trees
at the water’s edge,
I will go your way like a Moslem
who approaches the mosque with covered head
led astray neither by what lies to the right or the left of him.

I will adorn my ear with sounds
that are audible only at sunrise
or towards nightfall, when each star sets out its bowl
to catch a sprinkling of the inaudible.
And I will adorn my eye with light
disclosing things that can be neither hidden nor seen,
such as breathe their scent from a distance
and cannot be lifted up and placed here or there,
since they remain with me always
wherever I am —

Among those lofty things
there is neither you nor I nor anyone else,
neither love, passion, jealousy nor revenge.
There is absolutely nothing to lay us bare
or give us occasion for arrogance or humiliation.
Those lofty things soar towards us
on the wings of interjections, transparent as the dragonfly’s:
she glows with all that is behind her or ahead of her;
colourless in herself, each moment paints her anew.
They are like a tranquil air in which scents thrive.
One breathes them in as on a forest path.
But the sea, too, the rock and the storm are lifted
on the wings of interjections.

Whoever is versed in them
is like a skilful spinner: from matted wool comes flowing yarn.
O, is it really necessary to heap up facts?
Then I am lost. In facts I was imprisoned.
What speaks through me now is merely what
is present in any moment,
like rainwater in a crevice: it has gathered there
and dries up again in order to return.

Long we go bowed under the weight of circumstances.
One senses them everywhere — like the members of a jury
they judge us, acquitting or convicting us.
As long as we live we stand like prisoners at the bar.
O who can plead in his own defence other than
in a thoroughly inadequate fashion?
On whose side is the law, on whose true love?
These are questions that cannot be settled at once,
but must constantly be reiterated in the world of the halfhearted.
The defier and the conciliator
dwell in the same breast, in the same heart’s chamber,
forever pursuing the same exchange of opinions.
In the long run we all lose out.
For what we win we allow to slip through our fingers
and what we lose comes back to us again.
In the degree to which we give it up for lost, it returns.
It returns by way of the loss that makes us reconciled.
It returns by way of the loss that makes us dream purer dreams.
It returns by way of the loss that makes us think truer thoughts and will better actions.
Verily: no one can say ‘I have won!’
For no one wins in the end, but everyone loses,
loses until they are conscious of it and realise
that only by way of loss can the flood of things that are lost
be stemmed. It is so simple. Tears are the nervous spasm
of our desire to hold onto something, they are the child who refuses to see
that the sense of loss gives to life its deepest substance.

One can find nothing in life
unless one finds those words
that are transparent with
what the spirit has in common with everything and everyone.
One can find nothing unless one is able to weave oneself
a net that fits every sea and every river.

In interjections I have found a strong thread
that has been dipped in the pitch of eternity in interjections,
which are born
like the spider’s web in the light of morning:
constantly at breaking-point, it often tries the eye of the beholder,
but it holds the spider, its creator,
as the world holds God. What does it matter
that much of it is torn to shreds? It matters nothing!
As long as the thread holds its creator.
I found the pitch-thread of eternity in the spider’s web and in those interj ections
which, dipped in my heart, held fast
even when its blood flowed hottest.

When the lover makes those long pauses between the words of love
those pauses that rest in the present like a butterfly on a hot stone,
without desire, need or purpose,
he is outside desire
and is in acceptance, in which his soul rests, open.
As after a violent downpour the sun shines more strongly
than it does on a cloudless day, so our lives are strongest
the moment we set ourselves free and stop thinking about purposes.
There is always something melancholy about one who is setting out on an expedition.

Why does the soul in his eyes seem to renounce
the result in advance? why does the moment of decision
make his stomach turn?
Where does this weakness come from? It creeps out of his soul, whispering: ‘renounce’.
Renounce! You must admit that — if, like a parachutist, you took the risk —
only then did you really feel free.

There is within all of us something
that is too fragile not to break,
too fragile or too inexpedient.
Are we therefore to condemn it?
Complete expediency would never
find its way to the life that is more than cause and effect.
Complete expediency is not possessed
by the ox under the yoke, not even by the machine.
The ox contains that which is animal and is not the beast of burden.
The machine contains the incomplete, which is the human being. Expediency can make no decisive contribution
to the argument about what our lives are worth.
No: sickness, want and hope —
that is life and its redoubts, never surrendered.

Let us therefore not condemn that which has made us vulnerable,
made us fall out with life and brought us face to face with the thieving brats of reality.
The wound proves that there was something
which went beyond the bounds of necessity, something
which demanded more and found less,
was a squandering of energy until reality
converted it into blind weakness.
To me the quarry is free when it is hunted
in mortal terror by a goading pack.

To me the murderer is free when, his soul on tenterhooks,
he awaits the ring at the doorbell,
the quite ordinary ring of an errand boy at the door with a delivery
from the grocer’s shop around the corner —
and then another ring, one quite out of the ordinary, one that mercilessly
shoots the bolts of existence, discloses
the next step as a ‘come with us’ — the soft purring
of the police car from the street sounds like something in a dream —
This is a freedom you cannot escape!
A freedom which leads to something greater, something inconceivable.
One that will perhaps finally release
the most intense delight a human being can attain: the smile that
nothing will be able to avert —

In the twilight of the jail
on the stone floor, pressed
against damp walls and with the cell bars
like a cool and indifferent thought, irrelevant,
I felt for my companion in misfortune the kinship
common shame bestows.
For in a cell there is no concealing
the obvious. In jail
a man goes free of condemnation and only
the unease of his own conscience examines
what is concealed
behind the ever more tightly knit
meshes of the interrogation. Fear and unease
about the inadequate weapons of cunning and watchfulness
construct a shared world
of hours that melt like hot tin.
Yet, when the fear grows less, even jail
has its view of eternity
and over its walls, dark with twilight, falls
the shadow of the peace that is granted
to those who rest under the open sky.

Never will I forget
how well we got along
over our games of chess: the squares
scratched out on the stone floor with a pin,
the pieces made with cardboard torn
from an empty cigarette carton. Bent
over those scratched squares we found
a peaceful crevice in the now,
a field for the tournament of thought
and at times we would forget
that the morrow had already been lost
before our surroundings let go
their grip on us.
The knowledgeable thief entertained us
with songs from far and near,
always came back
from interrogation having confessed new crimes,
always calculating
what they would cost him in months
of life; yes, truly
justice did not scorn
the widow’s mite —
Never will I forget
how dear hands sent me
the book about Watteau with its pairs of
silk-robed lovers in parks suffused
with the purple radiance from distant
sunsets.

Thus is our life — Vain
to try to set it on a course
for the better. There is
no “better” anywhere.
Fear and distress interrupted by
the occasional relief of
sleep and oblivion put man
in his rightful place. Whoever understands this
no longer negotiates with fortune
and the rainbow.

There is something that has gone —
A cloud has gone, a light, a cloud and a star.
I stand staring at that patch of emptiness
where once it was: a cloud has gone.
I do not know why this empty patch in the sky
should bring forth such emptiness within me.
I do not know why: since the cloud disappeared
I have felt a thirst that cannot be quenched.

My lips are dry, my soul rocks to and fro
like one whose abdomen hurts.
I know full well that everything is an illusion
and that life builds cycles of illusion.
And that all transformations simply illustrate
that here have we no continuing city.
In spite of every transformation we are kept
on a diet that is far too restricted: it satisfies us before we have stilled our hunger.
Who but a conjuror could love reality for more than ten years at a stretch?
What comes after that is nothing but repetitions, which give us a certain degree of immunity,
but by no means indemnify us; on the contrary, although the symptoms grow less noticeable, the disease penetrates deep down.
Work, leisure, all that is measurable in purely external terms becomes more significant and the emotions are now the great stumbling-block we must overcome.
But we overcome them not at all, we merely conceal them,
conceal them from the sight of others and ourselves.
Increasingly we make life into a plan of action, a sphere of activity.
The most precious and sensitive instruments have been lost in the storm,
But we attempt to manage without them, we trust to our own eyes.

Can we hold the course? Do we care whether we hold it any more?
Chance and our eyes grow more and more closely wedded to each other.
In this magnetic field everything is simpler.
Even the oarsman, aimlessly rowing, has a regard to the wind and the waves.

Those who consciously describe themselves as corks before the wind do not become more so
than those who are, but are unaware of it…
To be poor is to be on the lookout —
We all stand in the queue ordained by necessity.
We do not know what it is we are queuing for, we join the queue without knowing what the goods are worth:
desirable or not, it is all the same.
The queue forms like an ice-pattern on a window
and is longest
when one is looking forward to what one cannot get. Patiently the days of our lives unfold,
frozen and wretched,
soon hopeless — and yet we go on with them
just for the enjoyment of waiting — and when we ourselves are no longer waiting
for the enjoyment of waiting with those who still are. We warm ourselves at the glow of hopefulness as greedily as the street-vendor at his brazier.

Toughness our most efficient stimulant,
a decoction of ‘perhaps’, ‘you never know’,
‘as well here as there’, ‘it could well be’.
Joined together by words and thoughts like a wire
the queue winds
binding our hearts somewhere
between belief and scepticism,
‘good luck’ and ‘that’s the end of that’.

Thus we are incapable of dying
and what we live by is what we are unable to cope with. It is so simple — in this greyness
dwell harmonies, sweet scents that make
our spirits tremble, our hearts hammer
obstinately — in painful contradiction
to all that we know —

To be poor is to be on the lookout,
on the lookout for life and death, to sense
how closely they follow each other
into our hearts, as closely as the windshadows on a flag.
Only the hunter knows the way the quarry moves,
the detours it will make, where he will find it,
only the hunter knows, and the hunter is life.
Our hearts are marshes on which shots ring out,
but we see nothing of the quarry that is felled.
That is the hunter’s secret and a secret too
is the deep silence that is death’s echo —

Like a roe-deer oneness had fled from me —
And where I walk the paths are muddled together
and all the trees look the same.
But however far I may have gone astray in the exitless,
to you, wanderer, it will one day be disclosed,
to you, that wander under happier skies
where confusion’s film of blood does not obscure your sight,
that here once the foot of a roe-deer left its imprint,
here in the valley of oneness and longing.

O bright valley, resting always further away
than thought and eye are so quick to believe!
O bright valley, there you are, glimmering in daylight more clearly
each time the mists of vanity are dispelled.
The wearier grow one’s steps the more clearly sounds the purling of springs, the light across your meadows and the water of the unattained rock cools
the throats of those who succumb but never
lose sight of their vision —

Long I sat on the bench of life
looking as though I were not looking,
saw the columns, supply vans,
heard the rumble of tanks, the frenetic din of engines.
The man at the wheel: stone gods, totem poles,
isolated, exalted in their din, while the caterpillar tracks scraped out listlessly burrowing claws in the dust.
How long I sat there looking
looking as though I were not looking
looking as one looks at the crowd on a platform
keeping one’s eyes peeled for the one whom one is to meet, only for the one whom one is to meet,
seeking a voice in the tumult —
Among leaves that have lost their sheen,
among flowers that have lost their colour —
Within the perianth they have their glow
and decay has its incense
of the past — a gentleness without limits —
So listen inwards, to what does not believe,
does not hope and does not remember; a web
of dead things that have ‘ost their forms
and are merely air or nothing!
They have drowsed away from them, they have slept,
slept long, alas, even during their lives they were sleeping
a sleep full of dreams about something
that never was —
Someone is loitering outside,
creeping in at your doors —
in search of warmth and company,
bread for his hunger —
Why does he not just come right in and say what it is he wants? Why is he creeping about outside?
Drive him away: he has dark designs.
Chase him away! But he is not there. Where is he? Where has he
vanished to?
But I know there is someone creeping about outside, someone to whom I can give neither bread nor warmth — Is it hope, dark hope?

Strew ashes, abundance of ashes,
ashes on the hard-frozen field,
on the winter snow, so that it melts away
laying bare the brown earth!
For you have an errand to me as you have to others, sun!
All your mail has the word
Urgent marked on it.
Urgent— such a hopeful word,
so warm, when sent in your letters:
your beams!

How often the gold text in your stamp is borrowed
for things and communications of such little urgency! Your message passes through so many
bitter intermediary hands that
— when finally it reaches us —
we are unable to decipher the garbled text.
But sometimes it amuses you
to throw your letters down to us
directly from above
and then there is a scent as delicate
as marsh violets —

Spring comes so quietly:
all the herb-gardens already hold
their seeds — all the herb-gardens
the gardener loves before all else.
Filled with the tension of expectancy
the rustle of the seedsticks
in the bag — now they have come to rest
in the soft folds of the soil, sealed in there.
He loves them best:
the sharp and the soft,
the light and the dark.
He loves them for the sake of their bitterness
and for their sweetness —
abundance here is paired
with fine discernment
and an aroma as full as that of the rose
here has its nearness to victuals, the frugal necessities of life.

Interjections,
forgotten by sound
possessed by light!
You are the girl where she sits
in the arbour’s shade, bowed over the book that is making her heart flutter.
Now she averts her gaze, her eyes pause for a moment seeking coolness on roses and blue lupins
to avoid those pages that come flooding over her
with too great a confusion.
When the voice of her mother calls her to the table that is ready laid
her own voice answers in faltering tones —
She has been far away. Will she finally have the strength
to get up and push away
the soft branches — ?

Or: you are the youth, when during heart-tearing
exertion he shapes words on his lips, words he makes as humdrum as possible
in order to hide his insecurity, his fear, despair —

O interjections
you possess the shortest way to renewal —
you know corruption.
Light as butterflies
you steer from flower to flower.
So much trouble with the manifold
in order to attain the unique!
There is no shorter way
than you:
like the arrow quivering in the target you have already reached your goal
in the honey sac —
the cup of bitterness
O interjections, there you float:
keywords of chance, rinsed clean by the storm,
transparent from the wind,
butterfly-wings capsized on a stone cairn
merely commemorating what remains of
the flight of countless butterflies in the sun —

– translation © 2011 David McDuff

from This Journey, by Eeva-Liisa Manner

Poems from This Journey [Tämä matka] (1956)
by Eeva-Liisa Manner

Like Odysseus, the Inquisitive, I have felt this journey
to be dangerous, and have rejoiced in it.
I am empty now,
my empty boat is tired of the adventure.

Take these cocooned words and put them away
In them are tree and butterfly and lizard and dragonfly
and snail and gastropod and spiral staircase
and snake because it too is necessary.

In them are plesiosaur and the swan’s stretched neck and song
and rain forest and the scales and the cry of the cross bill.
In them are the fleeing hoof and the memory of the injured horse,
and the memory of how human beings, snares must be avoided.
In them are slow snowy death and swift hieroglyphs
and the slender writing of toes in sedimented salt.
and the plates of the mussel shell and the spirals that ring
and the secret of the counterpoint invented by the nummulites,
– oh, how they ring –

In them are brain-coral and coral and the brain
in which all the mysterious numbers do their patient work,
practise mathematics and change
and ceremonial magic;
the numbers which are beautiful, perhaps the most beautiful thing there is,
but bring misfortune, seldom fortune
even to those who know the formulae of alchemy.

Take them and sow them in the wind
Take them and sow them in the current
Take them and sow them under the snow to overwinter

Take and deliver me from evil.
——————————————————————————–

THE SOLITARY ONES

WINTER

Leaves float, hours, seasons
from room to room.
Snow blows, and in the openings curtains.
Desolation leans against the walls, spreads the house,
shadows lean and creak.
Snow, like a low creature, moves,
nests in corners.
Sparse squares and eyes freeze.
If a bird strays inside, it falls.
This hand that freezes does not warm it.

Here
only old voices stray
from wall to wall,
nest in my hair,
in the thin snow of my mind, beneath which
closed away are depth,
broken openings,
darkness smothered, and mice eager to live

SPINOZA

I made lenses so that they would see.
I ground the surface all night,
and offered to God
fragments of my mind.
Silence. And I saw:
they all refracted wrongly.

Am I now worthy
when I bring pain, loneliness,
without
written ignorance.

THE CITY

How the houses have grown in this city,
the chasms deepened, the water become blacker,
soon it will creep on to the streets, the balustrades are fragile,
the water table is rising, the basements are already full,
fear is rising, fear is hidden
in oppressive tact,
in open crimes.
Soon boats will be needed, do you hear the roar,
take the boats, hats are no help any more,
or, if you plunge in bravely,
take word to him, the Mover,
that the distress is very great.

HERE

How loneliness spreads from me
the bushes die away,
the trees fly and the pine martens, the pine martens.
The night’s coldness slowly pushes further
than the edge of the ice sheet
and covers the small corpses.
The trees outside support emptiness,
loneliness
like a stone moves from tree to tree.
Infinity

and snow.

YOU PICKED UP THE PLANET

To Erik Lindegren

You picked up the planet like an egg
and set it spinning
in slow motion on the floor of the world.
The stars arranged themselves upon request
around the red magnet
and formed singing mosaics, like swallows or notes of music.
Oh, this soaring Braille, grammar of space
that makes the birds happy,
those passionate instruments
above sedimented mountains and broken church towers.
Oh, sloughed-off faces of the indifferent ones
and the grudge of those who can no longer read
(except for cruel bibles, between whose pages doves and corpses have been dried).
Oh, woe to us here in the lonely place on the moon’s side
hair and eyes in the wind, in our hands
uncertainty and the boomerangs of echoes.
Oh, these vaults of language, transforming the skies
into which the letters rise like flags of distress.

I look for the question to which this mutabor is the answer.
I kneel
to pluck the letters’ mutilated feet,
their gouged-out eyes,
in them is the wounded shining secret,
in which I lost my wings
before the development of discriminating fingers.

DESCARTES

I thought, but was not.
I said that creatures are machines.
I had lost everything but reason.

Give greetings to all those
whose knowledge is secret,
like Paracelsus, Swedenborg and Elberfeld’s mathematical horses,
which take roots and raise them to powers,
count flowing numbers with their wise hooves, not their heads,
because hooves and trained legs and erudite body
often know more than tardy brains.
Tell them that philosophy is solitude
and solitude coldness and a dead body
that copulates with reason, and the child
is a discourse on method* and an imaginary quantity.

Today
swift horses run over dying France
with their hooves they drum the hidden knowledge
into Cartesius’ temporal bone.
Today I am one with them.

CAMBRIAN

A Sequence About The Sea And Creatures

To move across shifting borders,
black waters, imagined stairs,
to penetrate crumbling gorges, slow lines of mountains,
landslides, snowy clouds, to find the chosen stones
and arrive at a region
of double footprints, animal habitation.

To see the refracted light of the hereafter and earthly cares,
to eat the bitter fruit under the breadfruit tree
and to grow hungry;
to rise and go, to wear out corded shoes,
to seek a river and come to a shore made by people,
wash hands and hair and drink the low tide
and dream heavy dreams about the last judgement:
to be allowed to start again from a muddy puddle
full of small primitive evil, like Dytiscus or
late man.

To go, to go without taking hold of anything
through dirt and snow, alternating heat
and harsh past and ice age,
that which was, and that which is to come;
to sleep in the snow and make a melt-hole with one’s body
in the great common ice-field,
to learn the skill of hands, slow hope,
to build a house from sticks and let the rains come,
to find a worn path and kicked stones,
the mute density of stone; also people,
and to hate one’s neighbour as oneself;
to eat pine cones and the food of birds,
to share one’s meals with the animals
and learn their parables and language and rapid footprints.

To learn their parables, and confuse them with bodily things,
to learn the secrets, and forget them again,
to lose knowledge
on the journey through time and layered records,
obscure stone books and missing dynasties.
To become empty and give up superstition, belief
that is wisdom, inherited from the animals,
from all anguished hearts
and from bound plants before turning into animals.
To become empty and to give up –
how heavy is the journey without a burden,
the loneliness without the company of the beasts,
the difference that the wolves flee and fear.

To arrive at last
light, tired,
without words, tent or the sympathy of the animals
at the sea-shore, to see with one’s body all this:
The congealing light and the long, stern waves,
the hard space, that circles, howls,
and the slowly freezing winds;
to send, out of habit,
an empty boat, a cry in the wind
knowing that only fragments will get there,
or nothing.

II (SHELLS)

Not a breath.
Only the polished stones
along the edge of the glacier.
Corpses of boats, sails of animals,
trilobites, weather-driven bones,
small preserved death.
Inkless fish,
writing in chalk,
flowers that are animals, stars that are animals,
animals that are boats, corals that are brains,
printed anxiously in the chalk,
dreaming, microscopically,
for lingering memoranda:

How close are the periods,
Silurian, Triassic, Jurassic, the dead Cambrian,
how far this moment, the present,
that avoids the immanent and reaches down
for Mesozoic dreams,
if they are dreams –

The shells are abandoned, and the houses tumbled down.
The stones are lonely,
the prehistoric birds
have been resurrected,
the frightened birds drag themselves
along the shell of the sky
and cry with petrified voices of prophecy.
The birds of the earth
freeze slowly, patiently
in the windy branches,
their beaks bony flutes without sound.

The only memories
of ordered notes
are slender shells,
scallops with broken hinges –
the small doors are open and lead to empty
rooms without microscopic music,
the empty murmuring chambers
no longer eat, make no pilgrimages.
Absent
is the crawling slime and spirit.

III (LATE BOOKS)

Turn the stone page and there
are the deep frozen complex buds,
the chapters of eyes.
The thousand-eyed tree, the reason for the flower and for the plant’s body,
the reason for spreading and soughing and filling the land with abundance
that rots or is perhaps reaped
like prey.
Turn the pages, in them is the reason for the trembling runner,
the reason for the trotting cloven hooves, the horns, the idea
of the horn-eye,
the reason to flee like a mountain goat, to fly with the wind,
to hear with one’s whole body the rustling danger,
to smell it on the wind and taste it
in inhabited puddles.
To see the dense stones and the danger pulsing in them,
which is set, and strikes home,

for behind come the artful creatures, that
have freed their hands and risen on two feet,
they are five-toed creatures, they
have large, heavy skulls and heavy brains,
and elongated limbs like those of the gorilla,
they are the industrious creatures, and thrifty,
at their waists they gather little heads
that rattle pleasantly in the wind
and bring good fortune, not bad fortune
as long as they go on rattling, bony trinkets,

they are the assiduous creatures, they have capable fingers
that can count to five and tauten a string,
not for music but for murder,
they adorn themselves with the numbers of killing and good luck
and sharpen stones into precise arrowheads,
in which is the throbbing reason for destruction
released from the stone
to sleep in the stone.

IV (GAMES OF THE MOON)

The moon is consumed and renews himself
and hoists slow sails,
glides, lending light and wind,
sheds his strength, pulls the oceans;

the earth yields like a woman, and gives birth much.
Plants grow, and nails and hair,
dogs howl on the hills, the dead in their graves,
and there is much murder with various weapons,
words and oozing knives.
They are consumed like the moon,
and are no longer renewed,
but in the moonlight
it is easy to die and to rise,
to cast off in a vessel, if the moon is a boat,
to cast spells, if a drum is the moon,

for the forms of the moon are highly inconstant,
he is a windy moon and voices and a moon of drums,
he is a seed and an eye and a Moon-that-makes-wane,
the setting memory of space.

V (O DARKNESS)

If they wanted freedom

the earth’s, the sea’s creators, the slow birthgivers,
then why did they draw not birds
but fish, bladderwrack, sea-sponges, the undersides of feet,
rat, musquash, for which traps are set,
and pedestrians with choking lungs
and brains, that branch like coral
and know no more.

O darkness, which swallows everything; animals’ cries for help
that are dragged slowly through creation;
what God created this deformed Grace? was it God?
what God created these deformed people? was it Satan?
people, greedy for Grace, cruel to animals,
great in Reason, small in Mind.

Pray for the animals, you who pray,
who beg for Grace, Success and Peace,
into them, too, has flowed the immanent Spirit,
they too are souls, more whole than you,
and clear, brave, beautiful;

and if we begin from the beginning, who knows,
we shall be able to share these sufferings, too,
simpler, harsher, more infinite than ours.

VI (APATHY)

The journey from Satan to God
has grown shorter,
the peaks worn down
and the chasms
full of rubble.
Flat. Brown.
Only the heat quivers
and envelops everything
like a torrid repugnance.
The brain suffers,
not much,
like an oyster perhaps.

We make our way along the edge of the void.
Legions of ants
attack and are defeated.
Philistines.
St Scarabeus rolls
for the greater glory of God.
We see all this,
we make our way,
holding hands,
I
and the other.

VII (PROPHETIC WORDS LIKEWISE)

We are sailing. Already the Hellespont
is shimmering.
The sun is spreading into the sea
like a blood-sacrifice.
Magic and smoky
oracular utterances
receive their due honour, future knowledge.
The polytheistic temples
murmur prayers.
Only the hills, the loins
dream of peace,
not fruit.

The gastropods have united with the stone.
The lazy bodies of crocodiles
are nailed to the rock
by hot jaws and impatient tails.
The greedy throats
catch only swallows, music.
Too late.
Chalk is already flowing in their claws.
They turn to stone.
Prophetic words likewise.

But when night comes,
Poseidon spurs the monsters
and drives them on their journey.
Nothing is dead.
The stone flows,
the atoms are visited by wind and storms.
The reins are freed, and movement, and power.

The nursing bird spreads her wings
and covers crawling souls
sucking mouths and fumbling brains.
The word is in preparation.
Humans
mammals multivertebrates
go on procreating with difficulty
embarrassed, pondering what will come.

——————————————————————————–
GAMES FOR SOLITARY PEOPLE

The roads are long and hot.
The sky is white. The crows fly
and blaspheme, a hoarse, screaming cloud.
Windows are eyes. My shadow is a stump.

Where should I go, my cottage
is full of strange stories, phrases like snares,
heavy words that burn like tin
and prophesy, throw shadows on the walls.

I am heavy, from my wound grows a tree
with motheaten leaves.
Through it a white-glowing sky is visible,
my understanding does not reach that far.

To speak of sorrow demands tact,
but what if you have lost everything but sorrow.
Speak with your mouth, your eyes, your hands, your gloves,
you speak into cold,
or are laughed at like a marionette
which yet reflects only the Player’s emotions.
How comical
grief is here.

Better to urge silence
on your hands that speak a foreign language,
and build from solitude and fallen words
a light windy house:
the small invisible creatures help you.

The creatures are your friends, did you not know it.
Let the coins roll along the road, cheerfully,
and the creature will come to eat from your hand which is free
of worry and fumbling and the intrusive smell of human beings.

I am tired of being strong
and always holding my breath
like a starling in a cage.
I want to open the cage and let dreams come
and let the bird walk about in the eaves
and drink rainwater
dilp dop.

Thus the rain
slowly loosens the contours
and makes everything seem softer;
loosens the lines of the cage
and the lines that mean the black bird and destiny;
loosens a light fugue from the eaves,
the sought-for notes
for the bird to drink.

The rain opens the ears for the sleeper
the rain opens the shadows for the wanderer
the rain opens the hearing, the walking inwards.

The rain opens slow lamps and blurred thoughts
brittle glass shells, blown clocks
stopped lamps in which are rainy songs
dilp pilp dop.

The rain opens the eaves to laughter, to music,
road-gutters, figures to lively preludes
of shadow and wind, to walk lightly
with a windy shadow, walk with the wind,
The rain opens an umbrella like a swaying flower, like
the skirt
of a wing and in the forgotten rhythm of the course
a paper boat, the sails of the jellyfish,
the eager ships.

I make of my life a poem, of a poem a life,
a poem is a way of living and the only way of dying
with ecstatic indifference:
to slide into infinity, to float
on the surface of God for a light chosen moment,
on the surface of God’s cold eyes

that do not weep, do not wake, do not form opinions,
look without attachment and accept everything,
cultivate order and precise moments,
protect scorpions, snakes, squids
(which human beings hate, confusing with their desires
these forms);

to confess one faith: Curiosity,
to wander the rooms of fish, scorpion and goat,
to borrow from the bird desire and distance
and float downwards
like a wind-wrapped wing,
swift freedom, bird-shaped.

All day I have sat under an old friendly tree
and looked at my dreams and conversed with the dead.
Rains come and go, I sit and sit,
my hands are inactive, my eyes know much,
I eat grain like the birds, my stomach grows,
what could I do but think with crossed legs.
But the dreams are long, the dead long-lived,
they have many spirits, I feed them with my grain,
I envy the diligent birds and am bitter to myself,
tired and full of trouble.

I have grown old: I am content
with polished rice and the sympathy of the creatures.

The unschooled dog listens devoutly, tirelessly,
it is patient and knows much
of the matters of forest and wind and eternity.

And the rice is nutritious and the nuts are plump
and cocooned like the grubs of the mulberry tree;
fried, they taste like hearts,
and sizzle hot and nicely on the tongue.
I eat them with my fingers, I have seen much vanity,
I am plump and content and ripe for obedience,
for long-lasting destiny

here, in this cottage, in this paper-thin house,
which seems to be asleep,
but on windy nights lifts away,
sails through space like a weightless ship from star to star,
its pilot courage, its lamp the moon;
and its chart the signs of the creatures:
slow time moves it without whim, wind,
allowing each a destiny and a room that falls,
when the signs are favourable, turns away,
time that detains.

When my head cracks like a flowerpot,
when my bones crack, my face falls away

I will breathe through the earth what is left in me,
I will breathe through the earth all love
and wrap it around my friends both here and there,
not forgetting the creatures;

in it I will wrap books, pens and clocks,
every familiar object,
mirror, ink-bottle, lampshade,
German dictionary, dog’s collar
– let them go sparkling on from hand to hand –

bees’ nests and diligent mathematics,
trees’ annual rings and calendar lore,
snail’s philosophical house and lazy grass snake,
hedgehog’s milk charm and swallow’s German tongue,
overgrown path and porch’s rotted planks
that rain has loved and snow and wind.

In it I will wrap the dates of the calendar,
let them be strewn on paths and in windy colours;
in it I will wrap a child’s solitary shoes,
small lost footsteps:

perhaps they will
sense safety
sometimes when it is very difficult,
sense the lingering secret shelter
and go on.

The garden grows sparser day by day,
soon one will see through it like a torn curtain.
The sky blows through it, and rain, a sea of cloud, is being shed.

The trees are taking off their clothes.
The leaves are falling, rotting.
The grey hairs of the grass are falling, the grubs
are nesting in the deathbed of the fallen land.
At night
the sky’s dog runs above everything,
the morning is white and weightless and cold,
frost lies like salt after evaporation.
The lizard climbs out of the well and lifts an eyelid
from above a jewel-black eye.
The skin does not throb, the heart stops
in the throat, the diminished fingers stop,
stiffen, the creature is cold,
dead as copper.

The well is uninhabited,
the path is empty,
the house does not remember,
the windows are covered.
Rust corrodes.
Mice and funghi move deeper
into the empty core, where seconds live
in the tree’s recess.

The year is ripening.
It is autumn,
two days’ scraping cycle
before the winter month.

THROUGH PASSAGE

COUNTERPOINT

They all fell from my arms,
garden, courtyard, house, voices, rooms,
child: with a sparrow and a fish in its hand,
fell to the earth
which brought forth the stones.

I am an empty room,
around me the points of the compass
and snow-enshrouded trees
cold, cold, empty.
But in my hand
rises everything I loved,
courtyard, roses, flowerpot house,
perfect,
house like a capsule, quiet seeds,
death and movement in their tissue,

a small well, a small dog, an invisible collar.
A small room, small windows, small lively lace-up shoes
for the heart and running.

The shoes run from chamber
to chamber, and in the blood
the child’s fingers are building
a stone jetty for oarsmen of stone.

Dreams like stones
in the depths,
numbered, dedicated to death.
And through the windows, ears
the tuned birds float
laughter in their beaks,
drops of mozart
zart zart

– translation © 2011 David McDuff and Hildi Hawkins

Gunnar Björling

Poems by Gunnar Björling

From Resting Day (1922)

A flower beckons there, a scent beckons there, enticing my eye. A hope glimmers there.
I will climb to the rock of the sky, I will sink in the wave: a wave-trough. I am singing tone, and the day smiles in riddles.

*

Like a sluice of the hurtling rivers I race in the sun: to capture my heart; to seize hold of that light in an inkling: sun, iridescence.

*

In day and intoxication I wander. I am in that strength: the white, the white that smiles.

*
To my air you have come: a trembling, a vision! I know neither you nor your name. All is what it was. But you draw near: a daybreak, a soaring circle, your name.

*
So I grasp you, language of gods: confession of those fallen silent and transport of poets. So I grasp life that soars and exults, flits and breathes. So I grasp you, only one: day above all!

*
Holy vision, so you were born, wordless tone on my forehead! And day was a silence. And quietly in objects I lay.

*
A singer I wanted to be, to give the suffering day, give the happy a longing. A singer whose song would strike hard through the day.

And the word was nothing but sounds and light in my heart!

*
Most is merely silent words and lies —
to the eye of day! that moves aside.
All is silent words —
to your eye: aimlessly light and fleeting, like the silence of an affliction.

And all is the same dance.
And day is life, and is
death.

*
And all is the same dance: not to look, —
and to look: with the naked eye, to look in the eye! — clearly —
the hidden guest.

I walk alone
down the road. A burning of sun. Is it summer,
the country?

Yellow buttercups! And nettles and burdock, in fields; nettles, —
burdock! Not town, and not country!

*
I walk alone.
Yellow buttercups light my way.
In the wood, towards the meadow: boys on a path.
Boys — the mere sound of it: wood! meadow!
Buttercup-meadow!

Edith Södergran

Prophetess: downtrodden, and in hearts
glowing!
You give the courage to go down that way where are the arrowshots
of clear, bright eyes,
Where there is day in which, breaking,
to be delivered —
eternal seconds!

You called out, in the grey day
blazing.
Outstretched hands —
crouching down —
nothing: endlessly, endlessly.

Baruch Spinoza

A man sat there and fought and fought. And thought raised stone on stone, until the building stood complete, the temple without rhetoric or ornament, a young man’s dream: in longing manly, whole —
Heaven stood raised, a fervour of reality, and — you beneath
it, and a world therein.
You were alone no more.

Alyosha Karamazov

The kiss of Christ is set above the world. And you realise:
this was — was all! The power of sacrifice, a kiss. And longing of all struggles, kiss: nothing but radiant gentleness. And day, made fertile!
There was nothing but a kiss.

Words

Words are not castles in the air, mirages. Words are not the jangling murmur, not the songs that vanity hurls past.
Words are endless silent miracles. Words are — ourselves! Words bear a scent of longing, words bear the life that is silent.
Radiant clarity, scent-bearing silence: word that is mine.

Abracadabra!

Abracadabra!
bottle and chamberpot, thunder and bang, hah-hah-hah! lice on your ashes, toot-toot-too!
that’s the song of life!
Tears and rejoicing, abracadabra, abracadabra! —
for nothing!
All peace is in heaven
Toot-toot-too, tral-lal-la! —
A silence rests; longing
brings its flower to light.

A silence rests

A silence rests; longing

Brings its flower to light

——————————

From The Cross and the Promise


The raving mystic.
God struck me, I slapped him one back. Dead, and peaceful, corpse-white foreheads will come crowding towards me. But I will stamp my foot and roar day of rejoicing: oaths! I shall walk in God’s burning noctambulation. There the wind’s soughing surges in the gods.

*

Shamans and singers! I did not become a shaman. I lacked a singing voice. I became a singer, a singer-
shaman!

*

Gethsemane.
The Master looks, and in his eye there are no visions. There are stones in his heart. Unbowed, he stands watch over the sleepers. When they awake it is day, and the burning night is over.

‘The Statue of Beauty’!


To hurry through life ‘in a drunken stupor’,
‘to fetch that rose’ ‘that never dies’ —
you ‘need nothing but God’s mercy’.
‘When the time comes
you will give the heart from your breast.’

*

Our lives are automobiles and railway trains and pawnbrokers’ and banks, and coffee, cakes, sausages, broadcasting, concerts.
Our lives are newspapers and bathrooms and lavatories, and schools or offices. Our lives are God in military music, and Christ in business. And great grey days of trial, and no flypaper dangling down as a reprieve.
And great and motley we draw a tiny picture on the lantern of heaven.
I raise romantic hands, I walk on classical feet.
I am will, not expiated.
I am weak as a cloud blown by the wind.
I bear heaven in the soiled day.

*

I am a little Chinaman.
Suffering is not pretty, bellowing is not sweet.
I am a little Chinaman under a wide-brimmed hat, my feet go toddling along. I hang by my pigtail in the sky.

*

God’s style — power of becoming: rest!
Style — keeping within one’s limits. All limits change. The narrowest, purest style:
style of the growing, and of perpetual choice!

*

God is all the words you are capable of saying, and one more: the unsaid.
The cross and the promise stand timeless, two hands seeking each other.

*
Does God exist? God is
that thing in your soul —
the crane!

*

God is death’s
blood-red flower: life!
gentle kick, that sends
the world flying.

*
I belong to no one, and everyone! I have a choice, and I have a smile. I am in the process of becoming —
nothing, and everything!
I AM.

Edith Sodergran

1.

You stand as high as ‘happiness, the new disease’. I feel your triumphant moments. I see death leering. The silent stands eternal.

2.
And you, ungraspable, you gave truth more than the others. You gave death, and burning stars.

*

Christ and Nietzsche and others.
Incarnations of strength: whom people do their utmost not to comprehend.

*

As a young man, in the obscure years of his apprenticeship, Christ beheld a holy image of Buddha. And he did not know whether to be silent, to remain where he was, or to beg.
He went gathering his Master’s gifts, went the way of the cross.

*

Death will not liberate you — it will cut everything off.

*

Truth — life: process of becoming, not accomplished. Your heartbeat, completed in the moment of longing.

*

You had better not use fine language when you come face to face with God.

*

Christ believed in God. You “believe” in your own salvation.

*

The priest of light: white, and naked!

*

Pure motto:
God, and excrement!
the poles that support each other, and make: white! the airs sing, the stones breathe.
Nothing is ugly: in the eye of God-the-Becoming!
Nothing is beautiful, only to God:
equilibrium: fire!

*

August Strindberg


You stood against the pack of villains, you stood on the side of life’s poetry, not its fine polish. You, heckler and fighting-cock, cynic and saint, with an express ticket to heaven and hell.

*
I am five hundred years old, yet I don’t grow old. I am five thousand five hundred years old, and I am in despair. I am a man who has stopped growing. I am a death-man alive.

From Quosego


2. My ‘Neue Sachlichkeit’


Kili kili-kau!
kili kill kau-kau!
kili-kau!
kili kiliman ja-ja-ja!
kili kili kau —
ki!
kiliman kiliman kiliman kiliman —
ja!
kiliman kiliman kiliman kiliman —
ja!
ki-ka-ki! ki-li-li-li!
kili kill kili
kiliman kiliman —
ja-
ro!

58. Pigs can be recognised by the sugar around their mouths.

68. We cannot give truth to those who want to determine what it shall be like.

From Kiri-ra! (1930)
Jazz

1.

Today is next spring
spring, spring, spring,
hi, hey-ha-ho, ho ho ho!
what am I in this sunny part of town with tall rose and platinum
it all goes in my mouth,
cider and milk, dear me!

2.

Screeching, drumming,
we’re dancing, scampering
out into the world.
Was I born with jazz in blood and belly, tell me, how’re things dancing
for me as a millionaire?

3.

Are we going crazy?
Our tails wagging
our feet clattering
on the floor, nothing else: dancing and not standing
embarrassed.

4.

Oh, how they laugh
market of youth
these carpets and the beat!
Who’s drawn lines clear?

5.

But our tongue’s bawl
is a carnival
and love’s wave
falls.

6.

Twelve o’clock cha-ra cha-ri cha-ra!

ha! It’s sponge-cake
music from now on
tim-tim
crash! this coloured top
cuts strips of board, violin and saxophone

clip-clap! Taramtamt-

tam!

7.

WHEN JAZZ IS OVER
Please please
play,
my tears are burning
my pain is blessing,
my ego’s obduracy
one minute
more!

8.

It’s the time when lamps glow faintly
clatter of cups and glasses
music puts on its blue jacket
the echo is heard from different tables
I have said my last step’s
goodnight.

* * *

I am analysable
to those who have accepted.
Slowly my words are dying, like the rest of the verbiage.
We live long in the soil of others’ hearts.
On us soundlights are constructed.
— that we are, that is the platform.

* * *

I am an old pecoralist*,
I am not very talented,
I am perseverance and a future —
I am a new bacillus.

*Sw. pekoralist: an author of trashy literature (from Lat. pecus [cattle])

This morning. Calm
and the cry of gulls.
A boat and a flower
are land and water.
The flower’s boat is the day’s
air below the horizon.
The leafless branches rise up out of the ground,
it is bare and hard with light-flying snowdust over sand and rockfaces.
The colourless belt of the waves beneath the autumn trees’s immobility.
The red light in this lifelessness;
and the sea’s roaring has an even greyness.
The microcosm of a word’s line. But I remember the unreflected long afterwards.
The and-or-not of our motley existence!
We all know that now, and the darkness of chaos when day knocks us down.

Is not dada necessary for lightweightless eyes?

DADA:
I slay dust beneath my foot,
I am the voice shaken out into space,
I am the sieve that let through
and built the hail of pillars.

Your lip gives off its colour and the tongues twist, you change your head, you meet the gaze of your fate on the streetcorn right in front of your very nose’s cut-out.

From Sungreen


The Temptation:


Now is the hour of the sunshine’s longing
and I get up on the trampolines and move to and fro

up here. Jump down, they call to me from down there. But I know that I can’t; no one can.
For no one has flown up here where no limits prevail. I stand with my arms thrown wide, and point to my black
birthmarks: is it not enough?
And the sunshine which has not hesitated!
Then I shall climb in fire-beautiful flame to the drowning gods of the darkness.
I want to live in the city as it is
with WC, electric light, gas-stove
and swept streets
a rich man’s park at every other corner
and palaces and cafés, abundance spread out in windows,

and for five marks or 2 marks a rectilinear
splendour.

a sea of light and motley colours
and faces, fates
and the light of the sky — an irritant to thoughts and struggle and newly-ignited love
for one and one
and for all, all!
to be like a plant in a spring meadow
to stand like a tree among trees
to fill one’s place like a stone among stones
in a building,
to know that thousands love and rejoice and have worries
and the same lovely eyes smile tears and burn and suffocate, dream, stumble, go under,
but will go towards a realm for all and a heroes’ feat with light perspectives.
— I rejoice in the city’s streets, factories,
and beauty is outside and inside.
The sky and the water stand equal
and the night is not so dark beneath streetlamps around street and water.
Emptiness acquires sound from the dance of the whole, from its cries despair and solidarity with the manifold familiar,
and it is lonely to bear one’s fate amidst the gaze of thousands, and to struggle in their swarm
is like struggling in a tunnel beneath the burdened vault of the forest
with the vault of the stars concealed in one’s heart.
The rumbling of cities — all!
an equal and brother to all
and the struggle against all
and finally the eyes, the many eyes
familiar,
not-so-familiar, that we carry about as in a bowl
so that they will not spill out.
The formula?
because we can’t stop — because we race like bloodhounds after the pig we held by the tail, and devour it with its ears still raw.
The formula?

because we took the pigsty and sank our teeth in, pierced the ears of the angels and smote the devil dead, burst to pieces the church wall and tore in fragments the feather-rugs of the script of lies.
The formula?
because we understood that all is lost,
or nothing. In every mouthful of sausage we consume with our hungry tongues are opened capsules
to heaven.
In every faith that is not the golden book of despair and the horseman’s spur of hesitation, we must be dead people, whom no one ever digs up.
— We must know: our happiness is as nothing, god’s distortions are all the things that do not rush through us
like the crown of the conglomerate and the self-evident argument, without meaning, without answer, without excuse, —
like the joy of being a midge on the midges’ swarming-day. Who can tell what the midges’ dance means to the midges, to us
and the soil?
that they sing so beautifully
that it is as if the cosmos were resting on its wings?
This new belly-dance and jargon and harp-sound under the fingers of our hands, what is it we want to have said?
the faith that will not loosen its grip on us!
the faith that transfigures everything and demands nothing, since it bears — in the eternally changing — the demands of life.
The faith that is the pigslayer
and the master gatherer: come all ye! —
Where there are will and violence, objects rise up and eternity’s morethanjoy
understreams; all is an aboutoneanother
on the ragfields of necessity,
the exultant breakdown of souls:
You are me, I am you
and it makes no difference how impudently false our souls are, the same night of horror
and the same infinity bear our steps
and hide away the graves in the cheekbones of our days

so that we see drunken pigs in the heavenly firmament and paradise and the mouth of laziness are our resting beds. Arise, you of the honestflame: dried footsole!
sink, radiance of emptiness
on the slightest!
Go out like these tangles, there are beautyspots everywhere and we stand still in the midst of our important doings, we wash
out the mouths of the day-labourers
and pray: sing the glory
of the facts of life!
Sing the heaven of the hungry, you have seen more than we have.
We stand still before all and say:
greater than facts is the place
of the unique gleam on your glowing, hurtling way.

We are all like “mumblers” or sun-and-fire worshippers in the pleasure
of embracing a chairleg, of tearing the ground apart and disappearing like mould, blood, saliva
in the facial striation of our paralysis.
A sound, physical, sense-movements’ commutation, erupting to universality and the miracle-dance of the voices
in our ears, mouths and lungs,
like a river we are, in Pentecostal tongue-talking, in the shady
assemblies and the dervishes’ dance,
in the temple of Isis
and at the jazz ball, in the passage of the orchestra through the eras.
There is the same raving in the pillar-saint and the Buddha- statues, everything is the suprasensuality
of the cross
and the pleasure-torrent
of the eternally coursing blood.
On beds of horsehair gods are nailed
as to splendour of secret delights,
like an enfeebled echo are the pitiful prayers of faith and the most wildly clear baritone.
The same need’s resplendent light and saturation of muddle is in every classical outline

like a mastering and a heroic feat to keep the godly limbs tensed together in an eternal coitus —,
or merely sentimental bourgeois incompetence,
or the interplay of all healthy instincts and tragic reality and voices of reason,
the reality that stands with its blue-eyed instinctual ecstasy and the reason, sense and moderation of the unique drunkenness
endless moderation, spring mountain in the eye
and sword of Damocles for all —
the mastering of the great confusion: and we know that all, all is the probing wind of common sense
and this Eros that will not let go of anyone
and will not yield, no matter where we go.
This instinct forces all into the great sperm flood.
All is like a servant-girls’ park, and is a dread
like a trembling of world instinct, primeval instinct,
of a split that wants to be joined,
and each lip that presses itself to the bread is the same as the
copulation of two bodies.
And air and lung are the same, and each image and the eye that receives it.
All is a cry from rotten shreds or fresh ones
in their master’s heaven, in their erosglee,
there is nothing a man will or can
or ought —
only the embrace with god!
It is that voice of greatness and the riddle
it is that murmur that explains
it is the sermon-text of expiation
in different languages, in all the forms of insanity and meanness. The same mercy of god in all acts of recklessness and in all
considerations.
The same power of soul is the power of fate in our days, cannon salute in the silence of the heart, in the sky-highness that never dies but sees with the courage of the clear eye,

— and day stands, though villainy, crime and rape are the sparks that bear lights into the darkness.
Like a splash of God’s blood is each moment an object in my hand.
— like tufts on the skin of the ordinary we shall walk on the wrath that wells from our intestines.
Like a cosmopolitanism, without losing our balance
in the increasing movement. We
with the will of our hands, that our breasts might rest as in dissolvedness,
and all were sprays and streams
and as though all were like a well-run milkbar
in which all receive exactly as much as they can drink. And all the eras are like a hymn to themselves,
all eras are the royal infant they raise up with milk-white limbs. All eras are the world tranquillity that sways in their eyes, all eras are like opened wounds, and we suffer from and for one
another,
all eras are like the steps of dancers with inturned toes. But there is the foal of unbounding like a smooth leap on the
boards,
there are crazed lovers who did not need to finger their sordidness
there are those whose eyes can purify.

The God of the Uncompleted


It is not death’s sweet bosom
it is not soft earth
and cold depths on bridges of moonbeams.
It is not the ‘end with a bang’ of last autumn that is forgotten for the life that beats in other hearts’ chambers
It is not the courageous eye of liberation that escaped the persecutors and thought and hoped for nothing.
It is torment that cannot end, the torment of the uncompleted the leering eyes of the living death: ‘I will arrive, you do not
know when and will not be ready

I will suck you in, you will smell my odour, the mucous wind of my teeth, the drive of emptiness over rattling bone pipes
the horrible thing you will not overcome — not to have brought order into your affairs that live on; what you have given rise to
I will disentangle,
with my black fingernails I will read the papers of your secret thoughts, the ones you did not destroy,
and I will strew the thoughts of your life’s papers like dead things onto the roads,
do not be afraid, no one will pay any attention, whether it be a king’s honour, a hero’s legend, or merely your spirit’s bankruptcy.
All will rise up and unravel in the emptiness of the world and the roses you have not won.
All that you could not manage will stand there like a confused jumble, the least and the greatest, you will not be able to pull yourself together, prepare yourself, you will not get a moment’s rest,
I see you, I come like night’s shadows out of the cupboard, rise up under the chairs,
I am the pillowcase and the view through the window when you awake.
I! remember you
I am your murdered instincts
I am your fate that lurks in wait for you
I am your happiness that stole away, I am virtue’s reward, that took the roses from you, I am the greatest darkness that will not let you smile
I am the one you must overcome from day to day
I am the ruler of mankind,
in the midst of its joy I whisper with this enervated unpreparedness, this thing that makes you turn away.
I am the master-builder of the rich cities.
When you are not expecting me, I will have arrived.
When you are dead, we shall hold hands with each other.
When you die you will see me.

I am what lurks beneath the ships. I am surely there.
The compass is mounted in my eye
you print your sun-eyes on me.
But I shall come and devour what your longing has not been able to bear.
I am I, like the day of pure Meaning.

– translation © 2010 David McDuff