Tuesday 30 July 2019

Henrik Nordbrandt: 'Offshore Wind' - Part IV


Shame, I dreamt, in the beginning was shame.

When I stood face to face with shame
I understood that I’d spent my life on it.

So that was that. And shame was only a word

like, for example, Constantinopolitan.

And I would soon be dead. Dead of shame.

Shame was little, old, wizened and bluish.

To begin with, I felt pity for it.

Then I broke its fingers, knocked its teeth out
and put out its eyes with an awl.

That’s what dreams are like. It wasn’t a pretty sight
to see it on its knees begging for its life.


As I couldn’t pronounce it
I ran sobbing off from school, sobbing.

And what’s more it was just at the time
when the hawthorn was in blossom.

For the sake of one word I had to suffer so much.

And not until this instant does it occur to me
that I have since got to know

several female Constantinopolitans

pretty well – and without feeling ashamed.


Everyone must have noticed by now how
more and more soft toys have begun
to leave their mark on the cityscape.
Especially during the months of March and April
when the sun reaches the dirt most carefully hidden
the increase becomes conspicuous.
Does that mean that we, the thoughtful, melancholic
must transform ourselves into real bears
or at worst baboons?
That’s one theory. Love
of one’s country and all that sort of stuff is another
and some people go on like that until they collapse
at the end of the painfully long summer evenings.
If I understood what I had written
when, clad in pyjamas and slippers,
I sat on the edge of the bed the day after and read it
it would be meaningless, a betrayal
of  everything beautiful: You can’t catch me.


When death comes, we’re to be glad.
That’s our programme at any rate.
By saying we we believe we can fool death
all of us ‘we’s. All of us think it
but no one thinks out loud.
The one who first says I dies first.
So no one says I. It is the hospital:
We its patients. Each patient is a we.
Especially in May this has a convincing effect
and especially when we’re outside.
A smell of new-mown grass and chlorine surrounds us
when we go for a walk right down to the entrance
from where we, in our nightshirts, have acquired the habit
of watching the sun set on the world.
The grease spots of the poppies confuse our gazing.
We cannot hold on to anything, but then we’re not I
either, we think. But no one thinks it out loud.
The one who first thinks out loud dies first.
So far, though, May is so fat.
The flower-fat of the dandelions vies
with the green-fat of the wood and the fat flags.
The sky is grossly fat with swallows.
They shit on people and their cars
indiscriminately. We discriminate.
The cars die first, but the cars rise again.
Evening is on the way, it will soon be June
children are born, the dandelion seeds are flying
then July and August. Then it’ll be etc.
But right now May is so fat
that death cannot show a bone
and when it comes, it will be with gladness.
When we die, we’ll become Mr. I again.


The same language: Grey skies and buses.
The buses are lined up, no one
is going to drive
we’ve talked about everything there was to talk about
even so the words haven’t been used up.
If you count, there are probably
more of them than when we began.
That is what in the same language makes
grey skies so grey, so grey.
The same language means: The buses
can’t drive.
The underworld’s the name of the place we bought tickets for.
So it doesn’t exist any longer either.
The skies are grey.
I feel I ought to write. It’s just that
I can’t. It is the same language.
Writers who cannot find anything to write about
can always write about Odysseus.
Odysseus loves
the yellow buses beneath the grey sky.
When they switch on their lights and drive out
they look like the fleet of the Hellenes.
The fleet of the Hellenes
seen from the coast, by the Trojans it should be noted.
And they have been in the Underworld ever since.


Then there was that dream about the killer-chicken
Evita, and what she had to say.
For such was reality.
For that was what she said.
‘Caretaker,’ she also said. ‘That’s a bit less
than a head teacher
and you also live in the basement
but that’s just one example
of the fact I’m right about everything.’
Therefore people said of course she was
right about everything
so she could kill everything and everyone
you refused to agree she was right.
When she pecked the kangaroo’s eyes out
and it looked at me
from up in the sky, through a hole
in a torn cloud
which made it look like the moon
I finally knew what creature
I lacked words for
to be myself
to be able to stop dreaming like that.


The next last thing, I went out to see how
but it was too far to get there
I was told my somebody who’d been there
and there was nothing special about that
he added. So now
he just looked after his potato field.
From there, things went downhill fast.
I saw some people who had got lost
and got stuck there
with frost in their hair and green eyes.
They only did that
because they wanted to be loved.
I had to go through a war as well.
Since I didn’t understand its logic
I was riddled with holes without getting hurt
so when I caught sight of a large villa
where they were busy eating the food I knew
I was not surprised.
I didn’t even bother to go in and say hello.
So that must have been the last thing.


I used to use the word pain
as when you talk about a kitchen sink
that’s got blocked.
And the autumn light makes the grease on the plates
look like old make-up
and you can’t remember the name of a person
who repairs kitchen sinks
and when the word plumber
finally comes to you
he hasn’t time for a couple of hours
and comes a couple of hours too late.
And then evening comes
just like after all the other days
and you go to the cinema
alone, and see a film you’ve forgotten
long before the kitchen sink
breaks down the next time
so all you can do is go home
and lie awake in the dark
and think of all the other words
you also misused, and everything that
went wrong, all of those
who disappeared because they didn’t want to be part of it –
so perhaps that even so could be
what is called pain.


When the light’s on
I change my mind and keep going.
When the house is dark
I lack paper and pen.
When the apple tree’s green
the blossom’s missing.
When the spring’s over
we miss what we missed.

When many years ago I had to write an essay
on ‘the pros and cons of life’
I noted this
one night when the apple tree was in bloom.


The light from the bedside lamp I’d forgotten to turn off
woke me up far out in the wood.
‘What a ghost-house!’ I said out loud
even though I was alone
and the house what’s more was mine.
I stole round it, but didn’t dare go in.
I managed to spell my way back
through the prickly scrub
to the place in the book where I’d fallen asleep
and the train to India was to arrive.
But because the consonants
because of this had been torn out of my name
I came to the wrong station.
On a bench on the platform a person was sitting
who proved to be death
by the way he lifted
his red-wine glass towards the moon.
The last train hadn’t left yet, he said.
We made a bet on that.
And to my surprise I won
so since then I haven’t been able to fall asleep again.


After September there’s just padlock on padlock.
Nobody asks why nobody asks
so there is nobody who asks.
The head doctor says it’s his elephant
waiting outside, it’s furiously
impatient, so he can’t operate until next week.
End of his story.
Crane is just called crane.
No explanation why it’s lifting a red-painted boat
up in the air in the midst of the mountains’ silence.
And that’s when it’s Wednesday. The 13th on the other hand
when we stand keeping an eye on the boat
to see whether it will also make it to the sea
the yellow leaves swirl across the windows
each of them struck by a sun’s ray
so it hurts right out to the toilet at the end of the passage.
We are all waiting for that.
Once it used to be I, but it’s calmer with we.
Elephant is just called elephant.
And there are nights when they rush trumpeting through the town
on their hind legs, and arm in arm
so the moon sees the padlocks the rest of us only hear creak.

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