Poetry

Göran Sonnevi:

Concerning the War in Vietnam [ˆ1]

Behind the TV the light
changed from the windows.
Darkness turned into
grey and the trees appeared to be
black in the clear grey light
of the recent snow. In the morning
everything was buried in snow. Presently I go
out to sweep up from the storm.

I hear on the radio that the USA have
released a white paper
on the war in VIET NAM
where North Vietnam is accused
of aggression. Last night as we
watched a film on TV made from the
Viet Cong side we heard
the slow flapping of helicopter machines
from the ground, from the side of those who were
fired at. A few weeks ago
a different film showed an
interview with American
chopper pilots on CBS.
One of them described how he ejaculated
when he finally got a hit on
a “VC:” the rockets hurled
him nine feet. It will
surely snow more today
my neighbour says. He is
dressed in black, on his way to work where he
embalms corpses and works as a
night nurse at a
mental institution. The area where I
live — Lund
and surrounds — is turning into an ever whiter
paper, the sun appears to throw its
burning cold rays onto our vast pages.

The dead are numbers that sleep, spin
like crystals, in the wind of the fields. So far an
estimated two million people have died in VIET NAM.
Here hardly anyone dies for any other
reason than the most
personal. The Swedish
economy kills very few people, at least
in this country. No-one goes
to war in our country to safe-guard their
interests. No-one
burns us with napalm
for the sake of a feudal freedom.
In the thirteenth- and fourteenth-centuries
there wasn’t any napalm.
Here the sun rises towards midday.
It is almost March 1965.
Every day more people are killed in America’s
disgusting war.
The snow flakes in President Johnson’s photograph
at the time of the latest bombings
of North Vietnam — he stepped
in or out of a car — fall ever more densely across the
white pages.
More dead, more
justifications,
until everything is buried in the snow
of a night that finally
alters its light outside the
windows.

President Lyndon B. Johnson

February 6, 1966: President Lyndon B. Johnson (2nd from right) arriving at St. Augustine Church for services. Source: lbjlibrary.org

[ˆ1] Göran Sonnevi, “Om kriget i Vietnam,” first published in BLM 1965: 3. Reprinted in ingrepp  –  modeller (Stockholm: Bonniers, 1965).top


Miłosz on compassion

To Miłosz compassion was a sign of consciousness
Which is what cats do not participate in
So that they cannot empathise with the mouse.

And so it is, we grandiloquently hear, with
All of Nature: it is indifferent to evil.
They are innocent, we learn, the animals, since

They cannot understand cruelty. And Miłosz is
Right. It’s just that Nature is cruel,
Like the cat’s game with the mouse.

And the maker’s apprehension of his creation.

(Gdynia, November 2016)


On the black mountain

This house dwells where two rivers cross,
white clouds pass overhead.
A visitor from the hills to the east came to ask
“Have I fulfilled my promise here on earth?”
Reptiles, sheltered by a river that
carries leaves to their destiny,
whisper.

(Belgrade, March 2016)

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