Friday 30 November 2012

Poem by the Danish poet
Thorkild Bjørnvig

The grebe

With the perfect curve of the neck,
the beak’s slender lance
it points at me, swaying
and follows, as if it would dance,
the smallest of my movements,
elegant, fine and alert –
but its body is that of a penguin,
held upright, passive, inert.

It does not fly as expected –
on its breast a stain of oil
has insinuated itself,
has sapped its power and spoilt
its desire to call, to mate and breed,
to swim, to fly and dive,
to hunt, to catch, devour –
its joy at being alive;
has struck like a deadly disease:
a drop, a germ that’s afloat,
and the mineral leprosy
glues feathers to sticky coat.

Reduced to just jetsam
midst planks and cans in the sand,
no use at all, unable to fish
dropped by water, air and land,
on its way down to life-cycle’s Hades:
each slowly dwindling thing –
it watches my moves intently
as around it I walk in a ring.

Sick little deity,
lost on the lonesome expanses,
nature, the mighty has never as yet
brooked impairment’s nuances
from perfection down to pure
obliteration; – no plight
that from wild beasts does not dictate
reasserted power or death outright.

Which is why I will not try in vain
to clean your body of slick,
for you would defend your last rest
with wild fear, were I to pick
you up as if you should live. No,
tonight’s moon’s a more intimate friend
and the clouds, the sky and what
you so calmly await as your end.
And you will sink down: your last
perfect movement – leaving no trace,
lie outstretched a shapeless form
in this fortuitous place.

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