Wednesday 31 July 2019

Henrik Nordbrandt: 'Sea Dragon' (2004) - Parts I and II



When I think back I’m fairly sure
I got this book from some nutcase of a woman.
She must have been a nutcase
since she insisted she was me.
I believed her nonetheless
and borrowed the book to copy it out.
It proved impossible
for the woman was far too deranged to write.
You could have told yourself that before opening the book.
But I didn’t say anything.
Everything in it what’s more had to do
with the sea horse and its relation
the sea dragon.
And now I’ve lost the address.
So I can’t give her the book back.
Thanks though for the title
sea dragon.



Via God knows what unfathomable ways
I have come today to the word livewell.
It has got jammed between what promised
to be a new beginning
and what judging by its late winter colour
looks like an old powerlessness.
I have said livewell at least 100 times to myself.
I have shouted it to a doctor’s secretary
who thought I meant her, and maybe I did.
And maybe she thought I was mad, and maybe I was.
There’s no getting round that livewell.
And all this simply because I overheard the remark:
‘Not until yesterday did I discover what a livewell
actually is.’
For fun I say ‘llewevil’ seen from the angle
where it is named in the language
that has to be constructed so as to get the colour too:
That special silver-grey, the colour of childhood
and powerlessness, for childhood is just as powerless
as it is powerful
because so many years have passed, and nothing’s changed
that silver-grey on the old washed-up pieces of wood
made smooth by their travels through the seas:
Silver-grey as the shacks, in whose cobalt shadows
seaweed and old snow lie:
That silver-grey when it’s forbidden to use colours in poetry.
And I’d have preferred to have excluded the livewell.
But I find the positioning highly appropriate
here in the open area behind the small harbour
with a view across to the next flat island.
Has that made it clear enough! You can’t just
go around locking up live creatures.
It’s tough on the fish to catch fish.
All livewells on dry land! I go in for that.
Afterwards there’s an equal smell of snow, sea and tar
and a little of earth. That’s how it’s got jammed,
so the rotten, silver-grey planks give up being a livewell
and fall apart in a profusion of flowers
eranthis, unless my memory is at fault.
They are precisely as yellow as the light-cable you can
suddenly see in front of you, where sea and sky meet
the island where I used to stand longingly gazing
across towards this coast in my childhood.


Look how light it’s got here.
The shadows weigh
just as much as the bronze statues.
Where the heart beat
experiences now rest.

In mid-land there’s a blue lake.
Everyone knows it from within.
No one can reach it.
Third floors meet the coming of evening
with blank staring.


I thought I was walking on water
because it was frozen.

Then I discovered the banks had been covered
with yellow flowers

and the weeping willow by the jetty
was about to come into leaf.

When the water closed over my head
I experienced what it felt like

seen from above, without me
by two dragonflies in a mating dance.


It was my father who stole the pictures.
I saw it myself.
He had them
under his arm when he came down the road.
He must have walked a long way
for he was completely covered in hoar frost.
It was that far then
to the house
whose pictures he had stolen.
They had been wrapped in brown paper
even so you could make out the frames.
They were vulgar
with flowers, vines and plastic angels
coated with gold: That
was my father’s taste.
Inside the frames there was nothing
for my father had stolen the pictures.
I saw it myself
so he could get away with it
and the house be emptied of the past.
For the same reason
I can also work out now where it was.
In the March sunshine the flooded road cuts
through the black hills, curved like sarcasm.


Oh shovel! I one day address myself.
This is not the language I would have chosen.
This language will always the property of others
unintelligible deep down
shiny and dismissive as a bank building
a loan of lifelong instalments.
The price of this language
is death, so the word death is also the word
that trips most naturally off the tongue
no matter whose lips it uses.
I would like to do away with it
if only I could simply continue by saying
straight out what I meant:
My greatest aversion to these lines is therefore
that I myself have written them.
The next greatest that others have come up with the words.
That’s what this language is like. That’s how
its logic cancels out logic
so it precisely conceals the essence of what it is
like the bank building.
When I had moved on a bit, the word
death appealed to me a bit even so
on account of the sound, and the same with lips.
Now I’d most like to erase both of them.
Perhaps I ought to pretend the choice didn’t exist
If only instead of shovel I had
at least been able to say bell!


I have come to the full stop
that is called midsummer.
What started out so well
ends here.

What ends here is what
started out so well.
And that’s all.
And that is what’s written here.

It’s like being alone in the world
and saying the word ‘home’.
It’s like hearing the sentence
‘Your sweetheart is dead.’

The sun cannot disappear
for there’s nothing to disappear from.
When the wind blows
the trees show the blacks of their crowns.


Create nothing superfluous. There’s already too much of everything.
If I call this a sonnet, it is because the elder is in flower
and I call the elderflowers elderflowers
for the same reason as a sonnet consists of fourteen lines.
Subject to that logic a dinosaur displays itself in the fifth 
to remind us of the relationship between intelligence and strength
this evening is also a matter of: on the TV screen 
its short legs flail helplessly in the air as in despair
at its prey having escaped from it. Therefore the tenth line
must mention an old man and his psychopathic homicidal son
who from somewhere in America can put out this summer night
like I turn off the television. This is the twelfth.
The fourteenth should be read by the light of the elderflowers
so that which came before can clearly come to the fore once more.


Even if the word is also predictable:
                if what it looks like
is only elsewhere what it is
if yellow in other words is blue, 
this sentence even so changes its meaning.
That is one possibility.
Another is that ‘predictable’ turns me off.
I mean, it must be because of the sound
for I don’t connect any meaning to it.
It is one of the words which like
certain seasons would be best removed.
Without summer and winter
we would probably live a better life
and purely personally I could well do without autumn too.
An eternal spring – that would give ‘predictable’
a completely different sound.
So now you’re talking maybe.
And the very word ‘talk’ makes me think of two tigers
sitting at a round table solving crosswords
because the yellow and the blue
so clearly predict what is about to come now.
So maybe we should make do with removing July and August.
That is the time of year when the cumulus clouds
on an afternoon like today suddenly stiffen:
                become plaster
said with a word that can probably be said
                otherwise in some other place
but looks like, is pronounced, feels and tastes like plaster.
And that’ll bring the sky down!


Seldom has the sun felt so sated.
There’s nothing left for it on earth.
So much more
does its afterglow dazzle.

The shadows stretch into infinity
but never become night.
The day lasts for ever
like the year that has just passed.


It wasn’t my meaning it should have turned out like that
the way I’m glaring at it.
First and foremost I don’t like the word meaning
and I feel only so-so about like that.
I suspect like that to be a way of skipping something of what’s
probably most important
and like that I actually believe years have past while I wrote this.
I saw a pram standing three quarters gone in one of them.
It was completely yellow
and was standing in a shaft of sunlight, in a forest clearing
so you felt like just going off with it
so you didn’t have to be a child one more time
not just be a child again and again, as often happens.
I didn’t go anywhere. The way
things are here, the weather would have turned cloudy.
And I hate cloudy weather just as much
as I hate the word meaning.
So it’s like that today.
I ought to have said something quite different, but got as far as 
this clearing, where the leaves are falling into an empty pram.
The end of August’s like that.
It’s probably my fault. I’m prepared to accept it is.


I’m well aware it sounds strange.
It’s meant to as well. It’s because of the cemetery
where a grey slab of granite
is glistening with a rain was a long time coming
but never came.
On the other hand your name is on the stone
because you read this
long before I started to write it
and precisely in the way I did.
I did this
so that strangely enough it would sound
as if the cemetery could remain hanging
there where it does
up above the valley, where its clients
cultivate tomatoes and wine, before they themselves
which they must also find
strange, are to go up there
to feed the cypresses.
So this in other words has to do with the full moon
so ice-cold and still as it hangs
above the aforementioned trees close to the winter solstice.

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