Wednesday 31 July 2019

Henrik Nordbrandt: 'Sea Dragon' - Part V



(Written after an eye examination)

How long haven’t I seen it coming:
‘Sharpness of detail’ turns out
on closer inspection to have been a pipe-dream
so ‘resolution’ would be the word
that replaced the one quoted, if change were possible.
Which it isn’t.
Blindness makes everything so clear.
And in that way
I can be sure that she hasn’t been here:
There are too many conditions
that cannot be fulfilled.
Change conflicts with the nature of these lines
like Dante bringing up himself
long before anyone has thought of Homer.
But why
mention world literature when you can make your own
and furthermore as you grow old become more and more
sceptical about world literature?
Especially the part of it that rhymes.
Without rhyme the details would even so have been sharper
not to mention the view
from the large panorama window with the palm tree
and the pyramids in the background.
I too would have felt at home on the back of a camel.
I you consistently removed the word I
every time I was just about to use it
I would be a happy man, I think.
That’s why I long for the day
when I have forgotten to read and write.
So this blindness
isn’t all that bad at all really.
It looks like a moral instead of an ending.
So she might well have been here after all, don’t you think?
Yesterday she was Beatrice, today Maria, tomorrow maybe Giraffe.
I remain the same
and thus recall, because of the changeableness of everything,
less and less about myself.


Unbelievable the way Picasso could look at a goat!
In actual fact
just outside his native town I saw 37 in a field of cauliflowers.
I counted them, you see.
When a cloud hid the sun, they turned yellow as sulphur.
They were much too busy
devouring cauliflower to notice that
or else sulphur-yellow goats was
a perfectly normal sight for them.
It wasn’t for me. That was why I had stopped up.
Outside the cloud’s shadow the landscape was ochre-coloured
brown and rust-red as always.
The cauliflowers were green-violet and almost
as big as the goats
that attacked them with something that looked like utter disdain.
They butted and guzzled at one and same time.
It looked like a battlefield where the cauliflowers
because of their superiority in numbers
were predestined to win.
I invented the colours to make it last longer.
I wished a chance for the goats
to finish eating before they were held fast
by the last stroke, the last sickening
blot of green-violet.
But they didn’t make it. Just look
at them standing here
their mouths full of cauliflower, sulphur-yellow
with lavender-blue udders.


I have painted a picture so one can see
that what it represents
is further away from it, the more it looks like
what it is.
And so I have painted it
in words.
Just look at how far away
you already are from the self you used to like
to compare with the sea
there where it reveals itself
between the spring foliage of the beech wood
with fishing stakes and gulls
when the milky-white evenings become longer
than it is possible for you
to penetrate with your consciousness.
Words deceive
exactly as colours to
and so I have said it
in colours.
For colours do not rhyme
with mullers or cullers
just as little as with Hüdavendigar
a street name
that is especially dear to me
because the same gulls hang out there.
Sea does not rhyme with filigree
even though the sea is filigree-amber right now
as the deer come into sight at the edge of the wood
but possibly with thalassa
Yes, far out
very, very far out with thalassa.


In Extremadura people stand well apart from each other
and each of them with a cigarette in the mouth:
They see a long way, but have this in common
with pumpkins
that they have to have a lit candle in their heads
before it dawns on them.
On the other hand it is impressively beautiful
far, far away from the nearest telephone box
and in billions of sunflowers
between each of the lazy green rivers
that flow into the neighbouring country Portugal
where they used to wear
funny pointed hats
and have heaps of neatly stacked skulls
in their baroque churches.
The person who cannot see it quite clearly in the mind’s eye
has read so far in vain.
For this is how I want to write
the way I saw it
when I had written this.


It must be me who’s caused this cloudy weather
for I am without shadow
or religion, and I only see what surrounds me.
Only something red would be a saving grace, rowan berries perhaps.
The red house by the lake has always been the archetype
I thought was nearest to me.
The woman at the door seems simply made for that door
and from the white rowing boat at the end of the jetty I caught
my first perch in a lake a couple of lakes down river.
Everything is there to receive me, but I pass right through it all
and into myself without being discovered.
If anyone has ever known me, they do not show it.
On the other hand I can then stand for hours under an open sky
and hear the words I am going to say
like a distant thunder that never gets any nearer.
For I love the violet there
where the sulphur-yellow runs down into the green earth.
If you replaced the sound of the word I
with the sound of a fly lying on its back on a window sill
you would get a more exact picture of the truth.
That is why I cannot become a Jew
a Christian or a Moslem
not even a Buddhist, even though I have tried.
My lack of shadow
causes cloudy weather, I want to get away from myself. Love me for that!


I am so looking forward
to summer coming to an end!
And the wind singing
so distant woods draw near
and darkness coming early
and yellow marigolds gleaming
so sleepwalkers
can find their way down from rooftops and church towers
and I have forgotten who I was
and dance beneath a street lamp in the drizzle
along with the moths that ate my last suit of clothes.


On the day she decided
was to the first in autumn
my mother counted the elephants.
That was a sort
of old custom she had.
There were four
but if you looked very carefully
there could just turn out to be five
or possibly only three, she said.
This characteristic
I have inherited from her.
As far as my father is concerned
I inherited the gold lighter
I myself had given him
along with his sword.
The elephants were yellow
with green and brown and red blotches
so they could get away from themselves
in the September forests
before the first gale ripped off the foliage.
Finally you heard the garden gate
shriek in the gale.
On the far side of the lake’s steel-grey water
it sounded as if the god of
the wild geese had spoken.
After which there was a long silence
which has really never properly been broken.


As far as I can see, it must at some point be you
who has finally written this.
Since the end clearly comes first
that implies God, you’ll probably manage to interject.
For the ways of the Lord are unfathomable, they say.
But I say: There is no god outside 
the word God, and I really wish
Jesus had stuck to the word.
I find his miracles a bit tasteless.
I think I could have believed
if it hadn’t been for them.
Then I would now have been a Christian
and who knows? Possibly a general.
There have been Christian generals before me
in the exactly the same way as Lazarus
ended up dying anyway.
So why procrastinate?
Here in midwinter
the unfathomable ways are full of water
which in a wild dream of changing itself into ice
melts into the sun just before it disappears.
I’m not getting anywhere
but am ageing with time faster than time passes.
That stands to reason, you say.
It’s got to do with the fact that you wrote this a long time ago
so it’s soon Christmas, hurrah for that!
If God in that connection were to argue the point with me
I would plead the concept ‘poetic licence’
just as he is most welcome to do the same.


It gets dark earlier
than I recalled.
Many windows push forward
but none reach.

The wind goes right through your clothes.
Your soul freezes to ice
without your body noticing.

The street corners
cut across the years.

You were a different child
than the one you thought
and the one who notices his wounds
has already bled to death.

Everyone stands
outside each other.


The days don’t get any shorter
and life doesn’t get any longer
and death doesn’t get any closer.

And nothing feels any farther away
than it has been written
by the shadow in this low sunlight.

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