Friday, 26 November 2010

Poem by the Swedish writer Lars Gustafsson

Aristotle and the crayfish

We went to buy angling-worms
in a shop clearly intended for this purpose.

And we found what we were looking for;
fat, squirming angling-worms,

a kind the fish here seem to prefer.
But in the middle of this room a large old-fashioned earthenware jar

blue, round and full of young crayfish.
And my young son was inconsolable

at having to leave these wonderful creatures.
We bought two, and released them

in our clean, glass-clear aquarium,
where the goldfish moved slowly and solemnly

like old poets in a distinguished academy. And see,
a great darkness descended upon all things:

here expressions of opinion and discussions took place
beyond our comprehension; only seaweed

that floated up to the surface bore witness to
the contention that here was secretly taking place.

On the third day the aquarium cleared once more.
And became as before. But no crayfish

were visible. We decided they now
were living like hermits, in greater wisdom,

a life far removed from the general public
down below the sand beds.

So it continued for a long time, until one day
I opened my Aristotle

and found a very small crayfish corpse
flat as a plant in a herbarium

precisely in the short section where the Philosopher
talks about memory and recollecting

the past. And this chapter
one of the best things

ever written about memory,
will now for ever be associated

with an odour not easy to forget,
one of a slightly rotten crayfish.

No comments: