Wednesday 31 July 2019

Henrik Nordbrandt: 'Sea Dragon' - Part IV



I declare this poem to be a sonnet:
Firstly, because it has fourteen lines.
Secondly, because it will prove
already in the first line to have heralded
a surprise: Namely, thirdly,
because one will unable to get
any meaning out of it before I myself
have found it: Fourthly all of this
will first and foremost deal with the one and only
for such a person no longer exists: And how liberating
to be able to talk like this about the one and only.
The one and only has left me, and I am too old
to find a new one. Sixthly and seventhly I’m talking nonsense.
Find a new one! There is only the one and only.
So this turned out to be a sonnet with fifteen lines.


I love to sleep around
in strange rooms
with strange women
to hear the rain on the roof
and hear the banana plant rustle against the gutter
and hear the water pipes gurgle
and a radio start up in the room next door.

I love to hear a woman
burst into a lament in a strange language.

I love strangeness:
The one room more strange than the other
the one woman more strange than the other
the roar of the tiger in the courtyard beneath the moon.

I love being in love
in one particular person

and I listen to all these sounds

alone in the dark.


I wish I could see you as you were.
No! I wish I could see you
as I wish you were.
No! I only wish that you were
such that I could see you.

But right now you are too far away.
So most of all
I probably wish I wasn’t here at all
so it was only you.

And if I stare long enough out into the dusk
at the almond tree in blossom:

Then all these 
my conflicting wishes are fulfilled
at one and the same time!


Just say it as it is, she said.
So I do just that:

I don’t know who first turned
their back on the other
but I can just as little forget your back
as my own childhood.

You ascribed to me
your worst attributes
as I also ascribed to you
quite a few of mine.

Sometimes you became my mother.
At other times I became your father.

That was how we played
father, mother and child

to the great benefit of the children.

No life was ever breathed into them.
So they were never laid in the earth either.


Sex, many people claim, is a part of nature.
I believe the opposite, that nature must have blundered

and have become pure unnature when it invented sex.

‘I want to marry that!’ I said the first time
I saw a sea dragon. ‘And I mean right now!’

So I found a human as a replacement.

Judging by her grace, shape of nose and curve of back
she really did resemble a sea dragon.

And she often appeared in long, fluttering robes
in the open air, while she sang: ‘I am at one with nature.’

As far as sex is concerned: Well, let’s skip that!
For the same reason she fell in love with her psychiatrist.

I should have looked my own unnature in the eye
and stuck to the sea dragon behind the glass of the aquarium.


‘Kendimi hayalet gibi hissediyorum.’:
‘I feel as if I were a ghost’
here in my old boarding house room
in the Halikarnassos of Antiquity
with the roar of the disco of the same name in my ears.
And for the same reason the end comes
before the beginning: In the beginning was the translation.
That was before I have learnt the words.
The words that come last are the ones I like most
because it is them I understand least.
That’s what it’s like being a child. The word child is so abused.
That’s why I find myself saying it every time doubt seizes me.
It does that when I feel bored.
When I feel bored, I doubt that it’s me doing it.
There are so many other children who also want to be me.
They have learnt the translation by heart
but individually do not understand the words.
Not a hotchpotch at all. We’ll come to that in a moment.
That comes of being a ghost.
Purely personally I now think
unconceived is a better expression
for the being that surrounds us in this house.
And it’s precisely here
the word hotpotch intrudes.
They are already mixing several languages together
like when you stir an old-fashioned sooty pot.
So there is only the image left.
Somewhere or other in the image there’s much too much red
possibly because of everything there’s not any room for
the autumn gale for example, the garden’s purple figs
and the boats out in the blue bay
seen through the sunlit cobwebs behind the window panes
or perhaps because I have blood in my mouth.
I don’t care whether it’s yours or mine.
I love feeling like the ghost
whose mouth someone or other has returned to
in order to whisper declarations of love through
the chorus of the unconceived
when we lie mouth to mouth and caught
behind the cobwebs, in each other’s twisted limbs:
All the untranslatable.


Because you never left
you never came back either.
So when I walk around this lake
it is not because I believe I will meet you
or imagine to myself
that you hear what I say.
It is because of the stillness
that I have chosen precisely this lake
and because it is dark and deep.
The migrating birds change course and fly round it.
On its banks I only meet my own sodden tracks.
So get the hell out of here, dammit!


Summer has not gone yet
and you have not gone yet
and I have not gone yet.

And the door is shut
and the warm evening sun filters through the window panes
and the birch tree’s shadow brushes

the dust on the black table
with the white vase.
And the dust stays put.


Joy is like an hour-glass:
You want to turn it upside-down all the time
so as to make it last.
And that which runs down is sorrow.

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