Tomas Tranströmer: Along the river

Conversing with contemporaries I saw heard behind their faces a flood running, pulling the willing and unwilling into itself.

The creature with cemented eyes who wants to be hurled current-wise into the waterfall throws himself forward, without a shiver, in a furious hunger for simplicity.

There is a pull from the increasingly rough waters,

such as at the point where the river narrows and turns into a waterfall — the place where I rested from a journey through dry woods

one night in June: the transistor gives us the latest news from the emergency session: Kosygin, Eban.*
A few thoughts pierce in despair.
A few people are missing from the city.

Floods of water hurls out from under the suspension bridge

and past us. Here comes the timber! Some trees
steer like torpedoes straight forward. Others turn crosswise: stubbornly, helplessly revolving into nowhere,

and then there are some who run their noses against the riverbanks, steering towards the rocks and clusters of wood, and get stuck there to pile up as folded hands

immovable in the thunder.

These things I saw heard from the suspension bridge
with some boys in a cloud of mosquitoes. Their bikes were buried in greenery — only their horns peered out.

(From the collection Seeing in the Dark, Mörkerseende, 1970. Transl. Torgeir Fjeld.)

  • On June 20, 1967 Prime Minister of the then Soviet Union, Aleksei N. Kosygin, appeared at a United Nations emergency meeting on Middle East issues after the Arab-Israeli war of that year. Following Kosygin’s talk, Israeli Ambassador to the UN, Abba Eban, spoke in defense of his country’s actions against Egypt, Jordan, and Syria.

New poem in translation

Snow can cover things up, bury people and objects, draw a blanket over the dead, turn darkness into whiteness, alter the light. Here’s a translation of a historical poem on a situation that was contemporary to the poet, Göran Sonnevi, and that would lead to mass upheavals and significant shifts in how we thought about our relations. We are compelled to ask about the legacy of recent armed interventions and what the future holds. Read the poem here: Poetry


Photo courtesy of Poetry Foundation.