Tuesday 30 July 2019

Henrik Nordbrandt: 'Offshore Wind' - Part III


The last time it took longer to school
because my father nearly got both of us killed
when he fell asleep at the wheel.
It was at that moment
I remembered in a glimpse from reality
that I would have been given a warning
that this was the last time I would see him
if I hadn’t known that he was already dead.

‘That’s grammar for you,’ I thought
and I hadn’t even done my homework on it.
At these words my father woke up.

‘That’s never happened to me before,’
he said, ‘falling asleep at the wheel.’
His voice sounded ashamed.

I didn’t know what to say
so as not to offend
the old man who had once been so strong
fought in the war and commanded ships

I didn’t know how to behave
so as not to accidentally disclose
that he was now dead.

‘I’ve cheated,’ I said, ‘cheated at grammar’
and even more at arithmetic.
‘I bought crib sheets at the bookseller’s.

‘I know,’ he said.
‘So now you’ll just have to start from scratch.’

I jumped out the car and began to push.
It was uphill work multiplying the single-figures
and even more uphill doing the ten to twenty table.
The streams rushed stronger and stronger
the grass grew more and more green
the yellow flowers more and more yellow.
The log houses at the roadside
became more and more wood-like.

People lived by breeding roses.
They were kind and helped me push.

It was countryside neither of us had seen before
but which we both knew
since one of us was dead
and the other one his son.

It all went smoothly. We climbed above the timber line
where the school stood, tall as a mountain on top of the mountain
built of gleaming ice.

From the top of the school you could look down to the sea
where my father’s ship lay.
That’s how I learnt numbers and grammar.

All that was left after that was
to carve up the head teacher.
My old man fixed that
with the sabre I inherited from him.

Then I cut through the mooring.


Like most people I was born when there was a war on
and like most people I flew in dreams
enjoying my wings
out of the world of war into that of gardens
there where, among dark roses,
the full moon, the fountain and the unicorn
watch over each other’s inviolability.

Now dream and reality are approaching each other
as in the viewfinder of a camera:
The details are so sharply in focus
that the overall view is lost.
I turn my gaze away and know:
Like a flaring flashbulb I am to fix the breaks
between the World and me, the war that continues.


No matter whether I come from Zealand or Falster
I’m on my way home
when I travel over the Storstrøm Bridge.

Via the Storstrøm Bridge I travel
e.g. on this occasion
back to 1949 or 1950.

Even then my clothes seem strange to me
maybe because they are relics of the war
maybe because I’m looking at them in a mirror from 2000:
Plus-fours and knitted socks.
Everything is handmade, everything itches.

I cry, and the sight of my tears in the mirror
cause me to cry even more.

My grandma and grandpa are going home.
They’re on their way out. They’ve already
said goodbye to my mother and father.
The front door is open.
A wave of some strange cooking odour and old linoleum
surges in from the stairway.

My tears turn into a bellow.

Everyone looked strangely at me.
My grandma takes me up on her arm.
I can just go with them, she says.
She dries away my tears.
Her handkerchief
has red lipstick stains on it.

My mother and father nod.
They look relieved.
I’m a nuisance!
Suddenly it’s now them I’m going to have to miss.
My crying begins again
at the very moment it comes to a stop.

They whisper a little together.
I would have said today
and leap back
to the past this is:

A compromise was agreed on:
My grandma and grandpa
will go for a drive with me
a short, little drive
before driving off on their long trip
back to Falster.

We drove through Copenhagen
and out of the city.
I recognised the tower of the Zoological Gardens.
It wasn’t all that short, even so,
that trip, I thought.
The crying had made me tired.

I woke up in Roskilde.
The sight of the cathedral spires
made me anxious.
I knew what those spires meant:
Soon half-way to Falster!

Then I thought of something else
and fell asleep again.
Right in the middle of the Storstrøm Bridge I woke up.

No way back!

The bridge disappeared beneath me.
There was only a fall that went on and on
and for the same reason
it was pointless to offer any resistance.

The whole world was bottomless.
It almost felt secure.

At that moment I knew what love is
what departing is
and what lying is

and that they’re bound up with each other the way they are
because you’re going to miss everything and everyone.


As a child I thought: To begin with you’re a child
and then at the psychiatrist’s the rest of your life.
And I can prove that
because those who can walk on water
can also read people’s thoughts:
The skaters stood stock-still for a moment
on the surface of the black bogwater
such an impression did the word
psychiatrist have on them.
I also thought: With so many cars
the world won’t last long: They must be got rid of
So I flattened my toy cars
with a hammer.
That got me into a right bollocks
a word that at that time it was strictly forbidden
even to think about.
Some people will probably say: What a clever child.
Others: He hasn’t been at the psychiatrist’s enough yet.
But it was in mid-May
The fish were leaping all the time out of the black water
with the same eagerness I have later seen
people leap out of hospital windows
a couple of months earlier, when there’s still snow.


What sounds like the sea
is the traffic of those on their way home.

Even in my deepest dreams
I know that I am dreaming

as life knows that it is death’s
dream of wakening.

When from time to time I open my eyes
I think I can glimpse the sea.

But it turns out to be a car
that’s coming to fetch me.


As far as I am from myself
yet on account of the years that passed
so unnervingly near
it must be me who once planted
that yellow tree out in the yard.

My late world lights it up
like imagined gold
in the mole’s passages.

But everything I write is untrue
a language learnt all wrong from the start.
Children in prison uniforms
each holding up its letter.

Summer spells the word autumn, evening
and greasy plates.
in the top of the golden tree sings a golden bird
about a golden bird in a golden tree.

No one answers it.

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