Monday, 15 April 2013

Poem by the Swedish writer
Erik Beckman (1935-95)


The big voice roars above me:
A stroke of happiness goes over Falsterbo.
   I see a double-bass that’s heavily belaboured.
   Round suns or cheeses shoot off from its strings
      I hide myself in dad’s old black piano
      and with a comb poke at the strings inside it.
         Dust and rust and a musty smell descend on me
         along with an untuned F-sharp from the 1800s.
The big voice moves along and uncle-rumbles:
A stroke of happiness goes over Falsterbo.

The little voice pipes close to me:
A stroke of happiness goes over Abisko.
   I see a little fiddle fiddling down there.
   It is a muted sound of need and northern lights.
      I pound it to death with the heel of my boot
      and play Jumpin’ in the sun on double manuals.
         The pedal-organist pounds the pedals up and down.
         A spider trembles on its ceiling thread.
The little voice creeps over death’s threshold piping:
A stroke of happiness goes over Abisko.

I grow into a youth, highly erotic, searching
on dad’s map for Falsterbo and Abisko.
   A young man is erotic. He stands at the window
   seeking and conducting. The young girl
      is erotic. Cycling grammar school teachers
      fall over each other in a heap in the street.
         A mixed-up sound of saxophone and harpsichord,
         policeman’s whistle and frightened cycle-bells.
I give them a fortissimo and everybody screams.
The sun burns into my father’s map of Sweden behind me.

Afterwards we sit and comment on what happened
gathered in generations round the 60-watt bulb:
   How the midwives themselves became prolific
   and the tinned sardines gave birth to young.
      How soundlessly all flights of birds moved
      southwards and northwards over a mapless country.
         How all voices fell silent and went into exile,
         became mute sheep in flocks on some alien planet.
The violinist in us draws his bow and everybody hums:
doh re mi fa so. Then even the children fall silent.

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