Wednesday, 27 January 2010

A poem from 'Palimpsest', Høeck's latest collection


WOMAN WITH WILD FLOWERS
(1907)

it’s easy enough –
i give my love a bouquet
of roses with this

poem stuck onto
the cellophane as a flo
ragram – now comes the

hard bit how is this
possible before the po
em has been finished

(which is not until
now) when i’ve already giv
en her the roses?

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

January 26, from Klaus Høeck's '1001 POEMS'


        what had become of
‘the good old days’ when the grand
        father clock had a
        more resonant chime
throughout my childhood and snow
        storms could be relied
        on with clockwork pre
cision not like nowadays
        only in fairy
        tales of ‘the good old
days’ when all the fairytales
        actually took place


        it was not all that
        simple with all that
freedom or rather with that
        sliver of freedom
        humans despite e
verything possess and i am
often tempted to lose my
        self in calculat
        ing totals and to
talities to lose my way
        in ramanujan’s
        splendid formulas


        tombeau de robert
jacobsen has now taken
        ‘the old days’ with him
        behind the rust and
red lead there where the secret
        hexagram has been
        welded into the
inside of the iron leaving
        us still alive on
        ly the chance of read
ing his last signature mir
        rored on the steel pane


        memory is quite
spiritless since all that is
        spirit relates to
        itself (otherwise
only to god) while he who
        remembers has pre
        cisely to relate
to a timespan outside the
        moment (point in time)
        which is thereby at
a point outside him because
        all time is present


        the first word ought to
have stood in the last poem
        that much i could re
        member though not quite
        where - whether it was
to take place on the far side
of the fairytale or in
        the depths of winter’s
        box of varnish and
        chinese ink i could
no longer recall and the
        rest i’d forgotten

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Danes are good 'September' poets - here's one by Thorkild Bjørnvig


September

Gold ground behind the branches,
Evening stillness,
as if I were alone
with the blackbird’s screech.
But everything is present,
The lizard peeks
vigilantly
from a gap in the dike.

From the water
the pure bell-motion
of the jellyfish rises
through my mind
The small tortoiseshell
shuts itself black
on the rafter, to
quietly winter.

A new-fallen apple
swells in my hand
smoothing out the
lifeline for a while.
Oh, cool savour,
everything is present,
and streams timelessly
through my mouth.

This seldom
hour of composure,
that comes unsought
is the gift of patience.
Look, the air has been lifted
by the sunset
and is hovering high
and golden above the garden.

The four winds
are at last brought together –
where distant trees
spread their crowns,
where the sun sinks,
they find repose
like big birds
in high nests.

From 'Logos' by the Dutch poet Rozalie Hirs


LOVE SONG

Now the middle of the night
dubs me a knight in
a dozen hours become 0
and the sentry gets the word,
I shoot at golden speed
through the wooden bead
in the rose – a mirror-box that lies
in a crimson disguise,
with sword and grail too,
my prince consort, for you,

bearing alive our fire.

We drink from the hands
of the moon, her strands
a string of milk teeth –
the surface a pool gleaming
towards me: Language glides
into our mouths and resides
in the change of the heart,
the wounded senses: eye
for eye, tongue for tongue –
the lung of love. With no lead

the light plumbs death upon death.

Friday, 22 January 2010

A poem by the Danish Romantic poet Adam Oehlenschläger


Hvor blev I røde Roser dog

Hvor blev I røde Roser dog
Fra Ungdoms Dage glade?
I min Erindrings Psalmebog
Jeg giemmer Eders Blade.

Og skiøndt hvert Blad er guult og graat,
Som Farven af de Døde,
Den Sommerdag jeg mindes godt,
Da de var purpurrøde.

I deres fine Væv endnu
Jeg kiender hver en Aare.
Som for af Morgen duggen, nu
Den fugtes af min Taare.


Where are you now, you roses red

Where are you now, you roses red
From days of youth so blissful?
I keep your petals long since shed
In recollection’s missal.

And though each petal’s dull and grey,
Its shade like those departed,
I still recall the summer day
When crimson they all started.

In their silk weave I still can view
Each vein so finely fretted.
Once moistened by the morning dew,
Now by my tears it’s wetted.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

The amazing Swede Lennart Hellsing


FISK

Det är ett jobb att fiska fisk
på sjön när vinden friskar.
Det är ett jobb att sälja fisk
vid fisketorgets diskar.
Det är ett jobb att välja fisk
bland alla dessa fiskar,
men ingen konst att svälja fisk
när den är kokt och benad
och med sin sås förenad!


FISH

It’s quite a job to fish for fish
at sea with fresh winds whishing.
It’s quite a job to sell such fish
on fish-slabs tails a-swishing.
It’s quite a job to pick a fish
when fish are for the wishing,
but simple stuff to down a fish
when dished up boned and whited
and with its sauce united!


It's proof of his genius that you can't translate this poem without tying yourself in knots!

A poem from 'Lyrisch van Rembrandt' by Jan Erik Harmens

















BANG

on looking at The Militia Company of Captain Frans Banning Cocq and Lieutenant Willem van Ruytenburgh make ready to march out, better known as The Night Watch


I grasp my gun and I fill it with powder and I aim and I shoot
bang

this is me paint me
let me come out into the light name your fee
we’ll palm off or pretend something that
make you scurvy-scudding wet

what are you doing with your hand you’re waving
quit that
musketeers aren’t sailors

we’ve just been sort of plonked down
and dram here steers things with his brush
from neck right shoulders right flag right
as if everything on the canvas is at a slant
and from that drummer at three o’clock not a stroke’s expected

and all of us are that drummer
boom! boom! time for brandy wine
happiness is missing something and killing it
and therefore lingering and a cask of consolation

bang
shoot aim powder feel my gun and grasp


Tuesday, 19 January 2010

One more from the forthcoming collection by the Swedish poet Lars Gustafsson


 Time

The fountain stands at the end
of the old park’s

worn-out pathways, the parasol of water
is thing and event in the same appearance.

Andromeda rotates out there
in the darkness. Right now.

Right now will last for quite a while.

Right now one of the
innumerable intelligences

that dwells in Andromeda is musing
over a very old fountain.

Right now was a long while ago
Right now is nowhere at all.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Another poem by Hanny Michaelis


Vanavond hoorde ik
dat de maan niet rond
maar peervormig is
met tenminste twee
uitstulpingen, misschien
wel drie. Toen ik later
naar buiten keek
klom een ronde
witgloeiende schijf
boven de daken uit
en ik betrapte me
op dezelfde koppigheid
waarmee ik andere
gedeukte illusies
in ere houd.


This evening I heard
that the moon is not round
but shaped like a pear
with at least two
protruberances, maybe
three. When I looked
outside later
a round incandescent
disc was climbing
above the rooftops
and I found myself guilty
of the same stubbornness
with which I uphold
other dented
illusions.


I aftes hørte jeg
at månen ikke er rund
men pæreformet
med mindst to
udbulinger, måske
tre. Da jeg senere
kiggede udenfor
steg en rund
hvidtglødende skive
op over hustagene
og jeg greb mig selv
i den samme stædighed
med hvilken jeg
værner om andre
bulede illusioner.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

A famous poem by the Dutch poet Hendrik Marsman



Memory of Holland


Thinking of Holland
I see wide rivers slowly
flowing through endless
low-lying land,
inconceivably
gossamer poplars
on the horizon
in wispish ranks;
and in the expanses of
space, sunken farmsteads
randomly strewn over
flat countryside,
tree-clusters, hamlets,
truncated steeples,
churches and elm trees
in a net flung wide.
The sky there hangs low
and the sun slowly stifles
in vapours where multiple
greys become blurred,
and in every far corner
the voice of the water
with its countless disasters
is feared and is heard.


Thursday, 14 January 2010

A poem by the American poet Mark Strand translated into Danish

My Mother on an Evening in Late Summer

1

When the moon appears
and a few wind-stricken barns stand out
in the low-domed hills
and shine with a light
that is veiled and dust-filled
and that floats upon the fields,
my mother, with her hair in a bun,
her face in shadow, and the smoke
from her cigarette coiling close
to the faint yellow sheen of her dress,
stands near the house
and watches the seepage of late light
down through the sedges,
the last gray islands of cloud
taken from view, and the wind
ruffling the moon's ash-colored coat
on the black bay.


2

Soon the house, with its shades drawn closed, will send
small carpets of lampglow
into the haze and the bay
will begin its loud heaving
and the pines, frayed finials
climbing the hill, will seem to graze
the dim cinders of heaven.
And my mother will stare into the starlanes,
the endless tunnels of nothing,
and as she gazes,
under the hour's spell,
she will think how we yield each night
to the soundless storms of decay
that tear at the folding flesh,
and she will not know
why she is here
or what she is prisoner of
if not the conditions of love that brought her to this.


3

My mother will go indoors
and the fields, the bare stones
will drift in peace, small creatures --
the mouse and the swift -- will sleep
at opposite ends of the house.
Only the cricket will be up,
repeating its one shrill note
to the rotten boards of the porch,
to the rusted screens, to the air, to the rimless dark,
to the sea that keeps to itself.
Why should my mother awake?
The earth is not yet a garden
about to be turned. The stars
are not yet bells that ring
at night for the lost.
It is much too late.


Min mor en sen sommeraften

1

Når månen kommer til syne
og nogle få vindhærgede lader træder frem
i de lavhvælvede bakker
og skinner med et lys
som er sløret og støvfyldt
og som svæver over markerne,
står min mor, med håret i en knold,
og overskygget ansigt, og med røgen
fra cigaretten der snor sig tæt
op ad kjolens svagt gule skær,
i nærheden af huset
og ser på sivningen af det svindende lys
ned gennem tagrørene,
de sidste grå øer af skyer
der udviskes, og vinden
der kruser månens askefarvede dække
på den sorte bugt.


2

Snart vil huset, med skodderne lukkede, sende
små tæpper af lampeglød
ud i disen og bugten
vil begynde sin højlydte stigen og synken
og fyrretræerne, flossede kroner
der stiger op ad bakken, vil synes at græsse
himlens sidste gløder.
Og min mor vil stirre ind i stjernestierne,
de endeløse tunneler af intethed,
og imens hun stirrer
under timens fortryllelse
vil hun tænke på hvordan vi hver nat
overgiver os til forfaldets lydløse storme
som flår i det slappe kød,
og hun vil ikke vide
hvorfor hun er til
og hvad der holder hende fangen
hvis ikke kærlighedens vilkår som bragte hende hertil.


3

Min mor vil gå indenfor
og markerne, de nøgne stene
vil drive i fred, små væsner –
musen og mursejleren – vil sove
ved den modsatte gavl.
Kun fårekyllingen vil være oppe,
gentagende sin ene skingrende tone
til verandaens rådne brædder,
til de rustne skodder, til luften, til det randløse mørke,
til havet som holder sig for sig selv.
Hvorfor skulle min mor vågne?
Jorden er endnu ikke en have
der snart skal vendes. Stjernerne
er endnu ikke klokker der kimer
om natten for de bortgangne.
Det er alt for sent.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

A boutade from the Dutch writer
E. du Perron


P.P.C.

Goodbye, Clary. I wish you no good luck.
For such sounds stupid, even without fooling.
You’ve sold yourself a treat. So have no truck
with all the rest: for everyone likes mewling.

Your house was small. Your master’s lent it size.
The fount of his good fortune flows unending.
Your fame grows great, can last till his demise.
Your soul is small. With that there’s no contending.

Your body’s fine. You’ll make a lovely wife.
You’ll bear your master lovely sons and daughters.
Your heart’s shut tight; you’ll lead a faithful life.
You’ll stay high-minded, far from muddy waters.

Goodbye Clary. You’ll see me nevermore.
I’ll steer well clear, no dream of yours I’ll clutter.
You were my dream, until I truly saw.
You are yourself. And my disdain is utter.

-------------------------------------------
P.P.C. = Pour Prendre Congé – taking leave

A poem by the Flemish writer Hugo Claus


IN FLANDERS FIELDS

Here the soil is most rank.
Even after all these years without dung
you would be able to raise a death leek here
to take on all markets.

The English veterans are getting scarce.
Every year they point to their yet scarcer friends:
Hill Sixty, Hill Sixty One, Poelkapelle.

In Flanders Fields the threshers
draw ever-decreasing circles round the twisting trenches
of hardened sandbags, the entrails of death.

The local butter
tastes of poppies.


Monday, 11 January 2010

Dutch poem - anonymous, 14th century


Ghequetst ben ic van binnen

Ghequetst ben ic van binnen,
Doorwont mijn hert so seer,
Van uwer ganscher minnen
Ghequetst so lanc so meer.
Waer ic mi wend, waer ik mi keer,
Ic en can gherusten dach noch nachte;
Waer ic mi wend, waer ic mi keer,
Ghi sijt alleen in mijn ghedachte.


My breast is sore afflicted

My breast is sore afflicted,
My heart tormented so,
By thy great love inflicted
The wound does ever grow.
Where’er I turn, where’er I go,
By night, by day no rest is given;
Where’er I turn, where’er I go,
With thoughts of thee my heart is riven.

Another poem by C.O. Jellema


BODY

Tomb of my recollections.
Comb of accumulated truth.
Urn in which I rest
Urn for what I'm left.
Ash – sample it.
Ash – a word.
As good as grass.
As grey as god.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

My turn - in English and Danish


LE MORBIER

to protect leftovers of their comté
until the next day
the farmers of morbier
covered it with a layer of ashes
then placed more comté on top:
le morbier

in the heated pool
suddenly
day month and year
escaped me
were out of mind
for several minutes

since then
reality seems the same
but whenever
access to a word
is briefly but firmly denied
there is this taste
of ash


LE MORBIER

for at beskytte resten af deres comté
til den efterfølgende dag
dækkede morbiers bønder den
med et lag af aske
og placerede så mere comté ovenpå:
le morbier

i det opvarmede bassin
kunne jeg pludselig
ikke komme på
dag måned eller år
de var sporløst forsvundet
i adskillige minutter

siden da
ser virkeligheden ud som før
men hver gang
adgangen til et ord
nægtes kort men bestemt
er der denne smag
af aske


A poem by the Norwegian poet Thor Sørheim


KEEN-SENSED CHILD

I listened to the hymn-singing and the sexton
creaking in the chancel, I shot side-glances
at freethinker Frederik who always followed
the vicar obediently home to Sunday dinner,

I was a thoughtful child that during the sermon
could wonder if it was to be a move forward or
back to start in the game that was set out
on the living-room table, Christ came ever

closer during the ‘Crown Him, Crown Him’,
and when the grown-ups closed their eyes
on the rim of the chalice, I decided to
approach the future from the other side.


Saturday, 9 January 2010

Translation of a poem by Erik Menkveld in 'Lyrisch van Rembrandt'



















THE SECRET SONG OF THE NUN
For viola da gamba, harp and female voice
In the manner of ‘Più dogliosa mia vita’


Why do you hate me so, from love?
What purpose does it serve to ban my bones as relics?
My love, you I do not understand.

Oh, to you it is mere duty. No
noble longing, no gracious hope took
refuge behind my deeds. That you know.

A prelate fails in his obligations
if what seems holy he would canonise
without first making his inquiries –  that you did.

Oh greatest bliss, fully known. Because of you
I lie in unhallowed ground. You’ll never know
one moment, guys, what does it say here precisely?

Friday, 8 January 2010

Another Aarestrup sonnet

ER DU EN CHRISTEN? -
SPURGTE DU MIG NYLIG

Er Du en Christen? - spurgte du mig nylig -
Hvadeller en fortvivlet Hedning?
Snart til at troe det ene, snart det andet
Gav mine Ord dig, Glut, Anledning.

Jeg tilstaaer dig, at det er længe siden,
Jeg tænker paa en Sag saa vigtig,
Og det er vanskeligt for Øieblikket
At fatte distinktionen rigtig.

Dog eet: paa mine mange Synder troer jeg,
Og paa en Himmel - fast i Blinde!
Men jeg er sandselig, og kan min Lykke
Ei i Protestantismen finde.

Het Hellige maa mine Hænder røre,
Maa med det Jordiske sig blande,
Maa sig forvandle, under mine Bønner,
Til Guddomslegemet, det sande.



ARE YOU A CHRISTIAN? -
WAS YOUR RECENT QUERY

Are you a Christian? - was your recent query -
Or are you a despairing heathen?
My answers, lass, went one way then the other
And offered little rhyme or reason.

I must admit that many years have passed now
Since I considered such a weighty matter,
And it is somewhat difficult at present
To know the former from the latter.

Except: my many sins I can believe in,
As in a heaven - although blindly!
And, sensual, I find no joy in taking
The Protestant persuasion kindly.

That which is holy must needs touch my fingers,
Must with the earthly go in harness,
Must, in my prayers, become transsubstantiated
Into what is true God incarnate.

A typical sonnet by Emil Aarestrup (1800-1856)



TAG DETTE KYS, OG TUSIND TIL, DU SØDE

Tag dette Kys, og Tusind til, du Søde,
Lad Øiet tale frit, Amor indskrænker
Kun Stemmens plumpe Sprog; og i hans Lænker
Er Kys, Omfavnelser ei nogen Brøde.

Jo tiere sig vore Læber møde,
Jo meer beruust paa ingenting jeg tænker.
Min Prosa jeg til Cancelliet skjænker,
Og saa kan Riim og Vers elskværdigst gløde.

Vel føler jeg, for Elskovsild tilfulde
Er Formen, skal den være reen og plastisk,
Kun den, som dine Arme aabner, Hulde.

Men for min Tænksomhed et Net jeg fletter,
For mine Viisdomssuk, et ret elastisk,
Og dog et smukt og snævert, i Sonetter.


ACCEPT THIS KISS, A THOUSAND MORE, MY TREASURE

Accept this kiss, a thousand more, my treasure,
Let eyes be darts, for Cupid muddles letters
To tongue-tie lovers’ speech, while in his fetters
Are kisses and embraces guiltless pleasure.

The more our lips fulfil their fated mission,
The more my thoughts intoxicated hover.
My prose to state officials I hand over,
So rhyme and verse can find their sweet fruition.

It’s true I feel, for passion’s flame is really
Form pure and simple, if it would be plastic,
But that, my love, which your arms open freely.

But for my thoughtfulness a net I fashion -
One for my sighs of wisdom quite elastic -
The beauteous sonnet’s fine and tight-meshed scansion.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

A poem from Henrik Nordbrandt's collection 'Sea Dragon' (2004)


DRAGONFLIES

I thought I was walking on water
because it was frozen.

Then I discovered the banks had been covered
with yellow flowers

and the weeping willow by the jetty
was about to come into leaf.

When the water closed over my head
I experienced what it felt like

seen from above, without me
by two dragonflies in a mating dance.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Inger Christensen - in full!

I have had complaints that the whole 'Valley of the Butterflies' cycle could not be downloaded. So here is the entire cycle:



The valley of the butterflies

I

Skywards they swirl, the planet’s butterflies,
like coloured dust from earth’s warm tenement:
cinnabar, phosphorus, gold, ochre – they rise
to form a swarm of chemo-elements.

And is this shimmering of wings a seeming
shoal of imagined particles of light?
Is it my summer hour of childhood dreaming
fractured as time-warped lightnings might?

No, it’s light’s angel, able to unveil
itself as black Apollo mnemosyne,
copper, poplar-admiral, swallowtail.

I see them with a mind but half aware
as feathers in a heat-haze eiderdown
in Brajchino valley’s searing midday air.


II

In Brajchino valley’s searing midday air,
where recollections crumble and the scene
in light’s coincidence with plant-life’s green
changes from scentlessness to scented glare,

I trace from leaf to leaf a backward gaze
and add them to the land of childhood’s nettle,
nature’s divinest snare on which to settle,
that catches what before flew off as days.

Here the red admiral still sits entwined,
while from spring-green and greedy caterpillar
it changes into what we would call mind,

so it, like other summers’ butterflies,
can fetch life’s concentrated purple colour
up from the bitter cavern’s sombre dyes.



III

Up from the bitter cavern’s sombre dyes,
where the first cellar-dark’s dream-crawlers sit
and all the cruelty we would disguise
lay the foundation under mind’s deep pit,

up ascend Morpheus, a death’s head, all
that turn their moth-coat inside out and what
they show me is how soft it is to fall
into the ash-grey and resemble god.

The cabbage white from one of Vejle’s meadows,
that soul of white whose mirror-wings display
a drawing of life’s all-elusive shadows,

what is it doing in this gloomy air?
Is it the grief my life’s passed on its way
that mountain scrub hides with a scent so rare?


IV

That mountain scrub hides with a scent so rare
that flowering’s rooted in all that decays,
the shadowful, the tangled, matted hair,
a wild and reason-unfrequented maze,

the butterfly conceals by fluttering
that it’s imprisoned in an insect’s frame,
you’d think it was a flower that took to wing,
and not this whirring image-storm untamed,

as when a carpet, owlet moth or bombycid
that swirl the spectrum’s cartoon figure by,
throw us a mystery that is to hide

that all our mental life can hope for through
and beyond all is grief’s stark symmetry
as admiral and camberwell and blue.


V

As admiral and camberwell and blue
in colour’s periodic system can
with just the smallest nectar droplet’s hue
lift like a diadem the earth’s whole span,

as those in colour’s carefree tones of bright relief,
lavender, purple, lignite-black, when caught
precisely fix each hiding-place of grief,
although their life of joy is all too short,

they can imbibe with their probosces all
the world as picture fable and recall
the glide of a caress with their soft touch,

till every glint of love is used as such,
but glints of dread and beauty circling fly,
as peacock butterflies they flutter by.


VI

As peacock butterflies they flutter by,
I feel as if I walk in Paradise,
while all the garden sinks away and dies,
and words that could be spelt before like ice

dissolve into false eyelets seen in flight,
scarce copper, burgundy and Harlequin
whose conjured words of silicon-white nights
transform the light of day to moonlike sheen.

Here grow the bushes, gooseberry and sloe,
that make, whatever words you eat away,
life butterfly-light to recall and know.

Shall I perhaps pupate myself and drool
at all pied Harlequin can now display
and make believe the universe’s fool.


VII

And make believe the universe’s fool
himself to think that other worlds exist
where gods can rant and bark and call us all
a game of dice, a chance flick of the wrist,

then just remind me of a summer’s day
in Skagen when the meadow blues all flew
when mating like small scraps of sky all day
with as its echo Jammerbugten’s blue,

while we, who just lay lost there in the sand,
as numerous as only two can be,
had our two bodies’ elements now mixed

with earth as that which is twixt sea and sky,
two people placing in each other’s hands
a life that does not simply choose to die.


VIII

A life that does not simply choose to die?
What if we have to see in works of man,
in nature’s last, self-centred leap on high,
ourselves in what is lost ere it began,

to see the tiniest scrap of love, or sign
of joy in a process that no aim can save,
as part of the great picture of mankind
as grass, although the grass is of the grave.

What good’s the atlas silk moth to us, his
wing-span that unfolds the earth’s great map,
he looks most like a web of memories

we kiss as we would icons of the dead
with taste of death’s kiss which did them entrap.
Who is it that transforms this meeting stead?


IX

Who is it that transforms this meeting stead?
Is it my very brain, so pale and drawn,
that makes light’s many colours glow and spread,
that differs from the butterfly I saw.

I saw Aurora’s speck of paprika,
its pallid gleam of pepper-grey savanna,
and painted lady’s flight from Africa
its trail to winter climes a streaming banner.

I saw a lunar thorn’s clear-cut obverse,
its charcoal-edged small crescent moons each fixed
upon the wing-tip of the universe.

I saw not simply visions or a guise
such as a brain itself can think up, mixed
with hint of peace of mind and honeyed lies.


X

With hint of peace of mind and honeyed lies,
with emerald and jadestone’s downy weave
larvae of purple emperors devise,
naked themselves, to look like poplar leaves.

I saw them eat their image till, distended,
they folded up into a chrysalis
that lastly hung as what it represented,
a leaf amongst such other leaves as this.

If by their imagery butterflies
have better chances to survive by theft,
why should I ever choose to be less wise

if for what’s desolate it dulls the dread
to name the butterflies as souls now left
and summer visions of the vanished dead.


XI

And summer visions of the vanished dead,
the black-veined white that hovers in mid-flight,
a cloud of white with just a dash of red
flower-traces, interwoven by the light,

my grandma in the garden’s thousandfold
armfuls of wallflowers, stocks and bridal veils
my father, who to me the first names told
of all that creeps and crawls before it ails,

walk with me into this enchanted vale,
where all that is is only on this side,
where the dead also hear the nightingale,

its songs all have a strangely mournful swinging
from lack of pain to pain and more beside,
my ear responds to this with its deaf ringing.


XII

My ear responds to this with its deaf ringing,
my eye too with its introspective look,
my heart is well aware I am not nothing,
but answers with that well-known snagging hook.

I see myself in orange moths and winter
moths one evening in November’s brush,
they mirror the moon-rays’ refracted splinters
and play at sunshine in the night’s dark hush.

I see myself in their long pupal sleep,
from which they’re ruthlessly released when dread
in mirrored halls of winter cold’s most deep,

and what I see from gazing in this wise,
this stripped, lost mirror look, is not just death,
it is no less than death with its own eyes.


XIII

It is no less than death with its own eyes
would see itself in me, who am naive,
one native-born who has unyielding ties
to naked self-insight in what’s called life.

I therefore like to play at wood white, bring
and fuse phenomena and words once lone,
play at light emerald so I can string
a myriad of life forms into one.

Then I can answer death as the latecomer:
I play at grayling, can I dare to hope
that I’m the image of eternal summer?

I hear quite well that you call me a nothing,
but it is me, in silver-washed royal robe,
looking at you from butterflies when winging.


XIV

Looking at you from butterflies when winging
is what some coating dust does whirling past,
as fine as nothing ever made for flinging,
an answer to the fronds of distant stars.

It’s swirled aloft as light in summer’s wind,
as ice and fire and mother-of-pearl host,
so all that is when nothing’s left behind
remains itself and never will be lost.

As copper, emperor, amanda’s blue
it makes earth’s butterfly from rainbow hue
in earth’s own visionary, dreamlike sphere,

a poem the small tortoiseshell can bear.
I see the dust ascend before my eyes,
skywards they swirl, the planet’s butterflies.


XV

Skywards they swirl, the planet’s butterflies
in Brajchino valley’s searing midday air,
up from the bitter cavern’s sombre dyes
that mountain scrub hides with a scent so rare.

As admiral and camberwell and blue,
as peacock butterflies they flutter by
and make believe the universe’s fool
a life that does not simply choose to die.

Who is it that transforms this meeting stead
with hint of peace of mind and honeyed lies
and summer visions of the vanished dead?

My ear responds to this with its deaf ringing:
It is no less than death with its own eyes
looking at you from butterflies when winging.

The poem 'Fuut' by Eva Gerlach in translation


Grebe

J., I saw your father on the bridge
by the supermarket. Shopping bag next his shoes
that shimmered in the light of almost March.

He stood beneath white hair, no hat, bending
forwards to look down at the water where
a grebe had dived and you saw how his gaze
travelled on to the spot where according to
his gauging it the grebe would reappear
and how he gave a smile when it was so.

A diving grebe swims underwater like
a snake so smooth and lightning-fast, seizing
the fish then surfacing. Does not look back
to where its dive began but swims, the fish
whole in its throat, on to the plunge ahead.

Your father gave a nod and then walked on.
He was less young than in some of the photos but
just as in those wore his heart on his face,
simply a skin that anyone may see,

eternity in his hand and the hem of his coat
surged and fell with his steps. Cautiously
down off the bridge. J., ‘to be two birds’ – the
gods that in former times once
roamed the earth, were they alive? as truly as only
in thoughts, where all things reside.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Denmark's answer to Walt Whitman is the poet Johannes V. Jensen (and he even won the Nobel literature prize too!)

On Memphis Station

Half awake and half dozing,
Struck by a drear reality, but still lost
In an inner sea fog of Danaidean dreams
I stand teeth chattering
On Memphis Station, Tennessee.
It is raining.

The night is so desolate and extinguished,
And the rain flays the ground
With a senseless, dark energy.
Everything is clammy and impenetrable.

Why does the train wait here hour after hour?
Why has my lot ground to a halt here?
Am I to flee from rain and mind-numbingness
In Denmark, India and Japan
Only to be rained in and rot in Memphis
Tennessee, U.S.A.?

And now the day is dawning. Light dismally
Seeps in over this wet prison.
The day exposes mercilessly
The cold rails and all the black mud,
The waiting room with the chocolate vending machine,
Orange peel, cigar stubs and burnt-out matches,
The day gapes through with spewing gutters
And an eternal grid of rain,
Rain I say from heaven to earth.

How deaf and irremovable the world is,
How devoid of talent its creator!
And why do I keep on paying my dues
To this plebeian water cure of an existence!

Quiet! See how the engine,
That enormous contraption, stands calmly seething
Enveloping itself in smoke – it is patient.
Light your pipe on an empty stomach,
Curse God and swallow your pain!

Go on then and stay in Memphis!
After all, your life is nothing else
Than a soggy downpour, and it was always
Your lot to hang around delayed
In some miserable waiting room or other –
Stay in Memphis, Tennessee!

For inside one of these poster-yelling houses
Happiness awaits you, happiness,
If only you can devour your impatience –
Here too a curvaceous young maid sleeps
With her ear buried in her hair,
She will come to meet you
One fine day in the street
Like a wave of perfume
With a look as if she knew you.

Isn’t it spring?
Doesn’t the rain fall lushly?
Doesn’t it sound like an amorous murmuring,
A long muted billing and cooing
Mouth to mouth
Between the rain and the earth?
The day dawned so mournfully,
But look – the rainfall gleams now!

Do you grudge the day its right to fight?
After all, it is light now. And the smell of soil
sets in between the rusty iron struts of the platform
Mixed with the rank breath of the rain-dust –
A hint of spring.
Isn’t that consoling?

And see now how the Mississippi
In its bed of flooded forests
Wakes to the day!
See how the huge river enjoys its winding!
How regally it gushes in curves, swinging flotillas
of trees and tattered driftwood in its eddies!
See how it leads a huge paddle steamer
Into its Deluge-embrace
Like a dancer that masters the dance-floor!
See the sunken headlands – Oh what a vast calm
Over the landscape of drowning forests!
Can’t you see how the morning waters of the current
Dress themselves a mile wide in the day’s paltry light
And soundly journey under the rain-heavy clouds!

Compose yourself, you too, implacable one!
Will you never forget that eternity was promised you?
Do you withhold from the earth your poor gratitude?
What do you want then with your lover’s heart?

Compose yourself and stay in Memphis,
Seek citizenship on the market square,
Go in and take out a life insurance among the others,
Pay your premium of meanness,
So that they can feel secure,
And you won’t be thrown out of the association.
Court that maid with roses and a gold ring
And set up a sawmill like everyone else.
Look around, smoke your pipe of wisdom
In sphinx-abandoned Memphis,
Hitch up your rubber boots without a qualm...

Ah, there comes that miserable freight train
That we have waited six hours for.
It comes in slowly – with crushed sides,
It whistles feebly, the cars limping on three wheels,
And the stove roof dripping with earth and mud.
But on the tender among the coals
Lie four motionless figures
Covered with blood-drenched coats.

Then our great express train snorts,
Moves slightly forwards and stops with a deep sigh
Ready to leap forward. The track is clear.

And we journey on
Through the flooded forests
Beneath the gaping floodgates of the rain.

Another poem by Lars Gustafsson


Just this piece of wood

Hands deal with a silvered piece of wood
that the waves have washed ashore

parts of it decayed, parts of it

so hard it responds like a violin string
under a hammer and chisel

The wind, constantly complaining,
through these gaping openings

The saw that goes
The wind that blows

Most of what happens
takes place far from here.


Monday, 4 January 2010

Another poem by the Dutch poet C.O. Jellema


ALWAYS BLOWING

On such a terp, we said, right close
to such an ancient little church,
we too perhaps – and pointed out
the symbols to each other: butterfly.
hourglass, as a ring round names
the serpent biting its own tail.
It was a day in spring, flowers
already dotting the grass,
the reassuring droning of a tractor
from the field, there was
much wind.

Lightly those things are said as long
as you can speak, can look at me so doing
with that familiar face of yours, but

now that I write it down, search for a word
not made flesh, that did not dwell among us,

for when all that’s left
to me is to think of your voice,
to imagine your face:

what is it calls itself lasting,
what omits itself anywhere;

for when that whole
idea of idyll
goes underground,
what then,
on such a terp, in
it bloweth where it listeth
and thou hearest the sound thereof
but canst not tell whence it cometh
that eternal
wind?