Monday, 26 May 2014

Five sonnets by Lars Gustafsson

Sonnet XIV

Lonely shoal that the same uncertain wave
constantly washes with the same short beat.
Anxiously leaning buoy, the same gull’s seat
day after day, beneath low skies that gave

off humidity and heat! And I gazed:
Eternity’s long been in motion here,
I should have seen it, for the law is clear,
relentless, that applies – each wave thus phased

proves the same thesis, and I should recall
just how it was, though can recall no more,
which makes this gull so crucial. Its beak’s caught

outlined against the waves. Scared its calm or
stubbornness might overcome me, both all
too great, across the waves my eyes still sought.

Sonnet XVII

Autumnal storm, warm wind. The moon obscured by trees.
A table, the boy just made out, dim from birth,
that scrapes the last drops from the bowl. This earth.
This warm wind. And now carried on this breeze

from a darkening lake a raw scent as of a
drowned man not recovered. And I, conferred
to be alive, walk through the grass. The selfsame word
for that autumnal water scent, the moon that hovers

anxiously on watch, and then the night that goes
on growing, the yellow light that lights a small square
of a courtyard, moist earth that has a scent

of rotting pears, the cat up on its toes
that slyly sneaks through shrubbery. And there
came no rain. That word would have been heaven-sent.

Sonnet XXIV

I know something about you you don’t know,
You are a dog. In frosty autumn earth
you’re digging for a hidden bumblebee. A word
for this could be a ‘truth affliction’. I know:

minus ‘truth’. Minus ‘affliction’. Secretly
we envy animals for this: there is no word
that captures what they do. Just as deferred
the outcome, wordless, with no uncertainty

through that thin body a fierce struggle streams.
You are a dog. The faint and stubborn sound
that leads you is an insect. And you don’t know

that you will die. Outer events it seems
All coincide. The same faint stubborn sound.
You know something about me I don’t know.

Sonnet XXVII

To one below the surface of the ice
the ice itself looks as if something white
and openings and wind wells where still quite
open water moves, look, if there’s a slice

of daylight left, as if expanses fraught
with darkness. And only he who knows aright
an exit lies in what is dark, that white
means darkness (that ice can so distort

conditions as they’re pictured by the eye)
and who, against his instinct, swims away
from light towards the dark sees day again.

There is, once a small habit stirs, or by
a word that changes meaning, a chance, though stray,
of someone getting out. That he sees day again.


It’s late in coming. It had far to go.
There is no name for it but it’s called grief.
A clenched fist is no more than a frail sheaf
of brittle fingerbones – it’s hard to know

one’s weakness properly. And very few
can view their weakness as a strong safe lair.
One stands on some huge Gustav Adolf square
and sees oneself forsaken. It’s hard too

to cross a square like that. A hand that lies
open’s nearly always empty. And a cage
where no bird’s ever lived can easily

convey confusion. By what right do we
disdain a freedom that by nature, stage
by stage, would loosen cautiously all ties?

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