Friday 30 May 2014

Getting ready for June - a June poem by Lars Gustafsson

Sörby elegy

Wild chervil and camomile surge against the
slag foundations of foundries that once were there.

The swallows weave an invisible web, and inside,
in a paler light and with the scent of ageing wood,

here the summer grows still. Mild and patient,
as if only with difficulty they recall their places,

things from vanishing years hang and stand.
A fyke with an ring of silvery juniper that has

not caught a pike since the end of World War I.
A pike spoon made by Bricklayer Ramsberg,

a quiet man who had lost a thumb.
A small boat that was once owned by a child

put together of far too coarse blocks.
A peeling garden table that was owned

by a grandma who lived to be a hundred.
And the shadow beneath her raspberry bushes

passes for a moment, like a cloud,
a very small cloud in some other sky.

The grandfather’s hammer with its shiny haft.
Huge shears from a sheet-metal workshop in Nibble.

I am probably the last person who can remember
where they came from, from Platelayer Claeson in Nibble,

and after me they are free, as free as an arrow-head
that someone finds amongst the gravel of a river bed.

We give back, but only hesitatingly and meagrely.
How absent-minded and mild things become

when they are once more let loose, finally,
and gain their long summer vocation, from the human

domain, from intentions and actions and words.
How are they to recall their places in tables and drawers?

In song of bumblebees and smell of tar, in the darkness of
the shed it hangs, lies and stands: so many an abandoned thing

from some other year. And the June wind veers.

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?

Palimpsest p. 438, top left-hand corner

ode to j m

you phoned me after
all these years and asked me if
perhaps we should meet

but i could hear from
your voice that everything was
as it had always

been that absolute
ly nothing had changed and that
therefore neither had

the reason for us
parting in the first place what
ever that had been

Wednesday 21 May 2014

A May poem by the Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer

Late May

Apple trees and cherry trees in bloom help the place to float freely
in the lovely grimy May night, a white life-jacket, thoughts fan out wide.
Grass and weeds with silent stubborn wingbeats.
The mailbox gleams calmly, what’s written can’t be taken back.

A mild cool breeze moves through the shirt and gropes for the heart.
Apple trees and cherry trees, they laugh silently at Solomon
they blossom in my tunnel. I am in need of them
not for forgetting but for remembering.

Monday 12 May 2014

Another Palimpsest poem from Klaus Høeck

ode to walt whitman

walt whitman old
poofter with stardust on the
blue drill of his shoul

ders i have not in
vestigated if you were
gay because i could

not care less – there is
nothing perverse between two
people that love each

other it is the
absence of love that promotes
that which is evil

Friday 9 May 2014

This Sunday's poem in the Van Oorschot calendar is by Dèr Mouw

Young lovely, who with cool-white bridal gown
would much like to deny the sultry glow
that darkly makes her slimness shimmer so,
eyes sparkle, and hair form a gleaming crown,

she feels as if she goes now, one elect,
she she alone, to meet sheer Happiness:
her own house, husband handsome to excess,
in word and deed so noble, so perfect –

Already I see a tired face, greying hair;
the memory of a paradise, once fair
now lost, is in her eyes a listless gleam:

life threw her out, a flat-flailed sheaf of corn;
a docile drudge, dulled by the brood she’s borne,
with sagging belly, bourgeois, broad of beam.

Wednesday 7 May 2014

One of about 250 in a row from 'Palimpsest' by Klaus Høeck

ode to the smell of firewood smoke

firewood smoke swirls up
in the memory sharper
than grated wasa

bi and it fills out
the sinuses resulting
in a final sneeze –

no forty years or
fifty have passed – somewhere or
other everything

is the same as be
fore is itself just like the smell
of firewood smoke