Friday 7 October 2011

Time to repost this poem by the new Nobel Prize winner for literature, the Swede Tomas Tranströmer


Madame despises her guests for wanting to stay at
        her seedy hotel.
I have a corner room on the first floor: an awful bed,
        a bulb hanging from the ceiling.
Oddly enough heavy hangings where a quarter of a million
        invisible mites are on the march.

Outside a pedestrian street goes past
with strolling tourists, fleet-footed schoolchildren, men
        dressed for work leading rattling bikes.
Those who think they make the world spin round and those who
        think they are helplessly spun round in the world’s grasp.
A street all of us take – where does it eventually lead us?

The only window in the room looks out over something else:
        The Wild Square,
a fermenting field, a huge trembling surface, sometimes full
        of people and sometimes deserted.
Everything I have within me materialises there – all my fears,
        all my hopes.
All the unthinkable that will even so occur.

I have low shores, if death rises eight inches or more
        I will be inundated.

I am Maximilian. The year is 1488. I am being held a prisoner
        here in Bruges
        because my enemies are at a loss –
        they are evil idealists and what they have done in the backyard
        of horrors I cannot describe, cannot transform blood
        into ink.

I am also the man in overalls pushing his rattling
        bike further down the street.

I am also the person who is visible, the tourist who walks and
        then stops, walks and then stops
letting his gaze wander over the pale moon-burnt faces and
        heaving material of the old paintings.

Nobody decides where I shall go, least of all myself,
        and yet each step is taken as it must be.
To walk around in the fossil wars where everyone’s invulnerable
        because everyone is dead!
The dusty masses of leaves, the walls with their
        openings, the garden paths where petrified tears
        crunch under heels...

Unexpectedly as if I had walked into a trip-wire the
        carillon starts up in the anonymous tower.
Carillon! The sack splits at its seams and
        the notes spill out across Flanders.
Carillon! The cooing iron, hymn and pop-song of the
        bells, all in one, and written quivering in the air.
With shaky hand the doctor wrote a prescription that no one can
        decipher though the handwriting is recognised...

Over roof and square, over grass and switch
Over living and dead their notes now roam.
Christ and Antichrist – which is which?
The bells will finally fly us home.

They have fallen silent.

I am back in my hotel room: the bed, the lamp,
        the hangings. Strange sounds can be heard here, the cellar
        is dragging itself up the stairs.

I lie on the bed, my arms outstretched.
I am an anchor that has dug down deep and
        that holds on

the huge shadow that is floating up there
the great unknown that I am a part of and that is certainly
        more important than I am.

Outside the pedestrian street goes past, the street where my
        footsteps die away as does what’s written, my preface to
        silence, my inverted, heretical hymn.

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