Monday 22 August 2011

Poem from 'Variations on a Theme by Silfverstolpe' by the Swedish poet Lars Gustafsson


(Fuga canonica)

No, not hours. Moments.
A smaller unit than clocks know of.
The body remembers.
Images were all the soul could see.
The girl returns in a shower of dreams.
Her hair has had time to grow
and is longer now.
She has been dead so many years.
It must be almost
daybreak, but no clock chimes,
and here, in this landscape,
you see, my son,
how time turns into space.
How odd, then, to believe
that time can be portioned into hours!
What do the swallow’s hours resemble?
And those of the vole, grass snake, or buzzard?
What would it mean
to day ‘This day in the orbit of Venus’?
When the girl returned,
it was in a shower of dreams.
The vole, buzzard, swallow,
in the regular return of summer.
The ancient black
over the stone, whose long green hair
is stretched out by the current.
Homeland? Yes, a kind of homeland.
As much a homeland as it can be.
My own homeland
is not here,
and is much brighter, –
I glimpsed it once as a child,
I lay on a sofa, (stomach ache)
and saw shadows of leaves move
against the wall and for an moment it was there,
and was wide, immensely wide,
and so much brighter.
It was my real homeland.
(And I was not there.
I had never been there.)
(It is poets who make landscape
something intimate. A landscape
without poets remains alien.)
The newspaper. (A barn burnt down)
I remember the smell when we made the paper.
In the fifties.
The letters were hotter back then,
cast in lead.
And the fire could be seen!,
the fire that kept the lead molten.
So it was then.
The stubborn afternoon fly
in the innermost part of the window.
The sound of a black-throated diver outside
in the morning mist.
The great call from No One’s Land.
Which is my land.
From the radio an old Romance by Littmanson.
The alarm clock that faithfully waits
to sooner or later be given an assignment. Again.
For some early departure. What does our time want?
What does our wind want?
What does our life want?
To move on. And we want to remain.
Moments differ so much from each other.
Moments of desire, those of pain
and all the other moments.
And then, the others:
The Moments Without Properties.
Some, so strangely nameless,
The World is an unlabelled Place,*
that it is hard to understand
why they remained.
(There is a kind of particularly grey day
that is completely characterless,
when strange memories rise up
from places one thought one had visited,
but naturally never visited.)
So many of them, these grey and faceless moments!
A kite that got stuck far too high in a tree.
(And which the child bitterly missed,
children now adults and long since gone.)
The pitch with football players
seen from the express train window.
Quick forwards in colourful shirts,
but the outcome for ever unknown.

Moments, what did you want?
And between the moments something
else is dimly seen: the frightening
great face of the right world,
empty like the moment after orgasm:
that future we never set foot in,
a strange door that recedes
at the same speed we approach it.
(A wall of rain that is the thunderstorm’s curtain
was raised above the lake. And all phones fell silent.)
Out of reach, then.
Yes, out of reach everything
except the moment,
which endlessly tumbles
into itself,
the moment that we do not know.
But where then do we find ourselves?
Du siehst, mein Sohn,
zum Raum wird hier die Zeit.**
The truth is that here
no permanent abode exists.
Observe, wanderer, these long-tailed duck
on the bird-mountain’s narrow shelves
and only the roaring green of the sea
below. Poor fliers that learn
to plummet first and then to fly.
Mad birds that owned but this:
the shelf in the mountain and the sea below
and nothing in-between,
just like all those that move
quickly or slowly over the world’s beds,
surfers on the surface of the genetic code
that turns towards the outer world
but nothing else.

You, Brotherhood of the Hour, what were you?
You had nothing to say.
And when the Girl returned,
it was in a shower of dreams.

* The World is an unlabelled Place.
(Gerald Edelman)

**‘You see, my son,
here time turns into space.’
(Richard Wagner, Parsifal. Act 1, scene 2)

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