Poetry

Die Seele ist nur der
Schlaf des Geistes.

GWF Hegel, Die Philosophie des Geistes

Three poems by Tomas Tranströmer

“Tomas Tranströmer (1931 – 2015 ), a Swedish poet, has been universally acclaimed as one of the most important European and Scandinavian writers since 1945. He was awarded the 2011 Nobel Prize in Literature. Tranströmer suffered a stroke in 1990, and after a six-year silence published his collection Sorgegondolen, translated into English as The Grief Gondola [2010].” (from thomastranstromer.net/about/)

FÄNGELSE
Pojken dricker mjölk
och somnar trygg i sin cell,
en moder av sten.

PRISON
The boy’s drinking milk,
sleeping safely in his cell,
mother made of stone

* * *

En pinande blåst
drar genom huset i natt –
demonernas namn.

A freezing wind is
passing through our house to-night;
the name of demons

* * *

SVARTA VYKORT

I

Almanackan fullskriven, framtid okänd.
Kabeln nynnar folkvisan utan hemland.
Snöfall i det blystilla havet. Skuggor
brottas på kajen.

II

Mitt i livet händer det att döden kommer
och tar mått på människan. Det besöket
glöms och livet fortsätter. Men kostymen
sys i det tysta.

BLACK POSTCARDS

1.
A calendar fully booked. A future uncertain.
The wire is humming quietly on a folk song
without homeland. Snow falls on an ocean of
led. Shadows wrestle on the dock.

2.
Sometimes death arrives in the middle of life
to measure man. It is a visit that is soon
forgotten; life goes on. Our
suit is sewn in silence.


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

[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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