Monday, 20 July 2020

Gro Dahle: 'Audiens' (1987)


On the stairs
the pope
a stair
his own.

did the pope say?

the pope,
said the pope.

When I shade my eyes
I can see better
It’s as you say
It’s the pope
sitting out there
on the little island
farthest out
where the waves break

The pope met the sisters
one day on the square
The sisters had come a long way
each with her dog
Welcome to the Vatican
said the pope
and fell on his knees
before the dogs
They knew more languages
than he did
and could lip-read

Trumpet blowers
under the spruce-firs
and those that follow
of the wind players
How can a hare
possibly compete with
a trombone
With a french horn
through tall ferns
that reach to your waist
and shiny shoes on roots
A big path in a little wood

I hold the hare by the ears
and do not let it go
until they have past
Then I let it run off
and report back

Here I have knocked
my hoops into the earth
You with your
You with your
big bowls of water
I don’t think
you will make it
I think you’ll have to let go
of what you’re doing

Not even the pope
who has such podgy small hands
and such a little round chin
and such white skin
that it hurts your eyes
with a real rose-coloured gleam
And such a funny little calotte
over his white silky hair
Not even the pope
Rubens on a trip to the Aegean Sea
can wish anything he likes for himself
He too believes in the cuckoo
and knows how the land lies

A smell of bird
comes from the pope
only faintly
but the brothers can notice it
at the Monday meeting
if the wind’s in the right direction

Then they exchange a few looks
over the table
and make the same sign
several times

It’s common knowledge
that the pope prays on the rooftop
He sits in the big wind
and welcomes a seagull
when it lands

The cormorants
on Galapagos
have small black wings
that are no use for flying
but it has no enemies
even so

The penguin
That’s a different story

It’s not easy
to be a puffin
with multicoloured beak
to be an uncommon bird a rare bird
out where the fjord meets the sea
where the waves break
and the young die in the nest
But it’s better
to be a puffin
than a great auk
A great auk’s a bird
no one envies

I measure the boundaries
pace out one two three
four thousand metres
If that’s they way you want it

The birds still fly
from sea to sea
Those with thin skins still meet
just as punctually in the juniper scrub

If you want to talk to me
you’ll have to sing really loud
or send snail-mail messages

It was the doctor
who stated
that the pope had grown fat
ten perhaps twenty kilos overweight

When the pope sought consolation from the bird
it gave him the same advice as the doctor
so that put an end
to cake
which the pope was fond of
and to cheese

But once in a while
the lights in the church are turned off
and everyone’s gone off
Then the pope sneaks round the altar rail
and nibbles a wafer
behind the pew

Quick quick
all that can run
all with sideways breathing
and a slightly oversized tongue
all with a stomach rash
and backward step
breast lumps
and runny eyes
soft underarm with light-blue veins
and small-pox vaccination
Now we’re off to
a flat space in the forest

In a quick space I run
ever quicker
Right behind me
is the hare
It knows the way
better than me
It knows the stones
by the path
And all the roots
But it lets me
go first
Sly one

Just think
that the crab too
has a pope in its stomach
That’s why the crab is
the highest of the animals
apart from the dog

Then it doesn’t help
to be a gannet between wings
at a pinch a gull behind a fishing boat

The cardinal gets
his red hat
from the pope

He walks all the way across
at knocks at the Vatican
the pope welcomes him warmly

The pope has a small supply
of such hats
and picks out one
that’s the right size
for the cardinal
who tries it on
and nods

as they take a stroll
the pope shows the cardinal the animals
but the cardinal is thinking most about his hat
and he doesn’t listen properly
Then the pope gives his dog a sly wink
and the dog replies with a wry smile

The pope stares blindly
at the manuscript
It is closely written in two black columns
He follows the lines with his index finger
but gets easily confused even so
and reads the same place several times

When he gets tired of it
as he often does
it sometimes happens that he falls asleep
with his big chin almost touching
the thin pages

Or goes out into the garden white-eyed
and lies down with his head
in the grass
He lies like that
until he feels cold

When the pope gets tired
he takes off his slippers
and scuffles barefoot
small white pads
across marble and carpet
to his bed
Rolls himself up beneath the sheet
rolls up tight beneath
the sheet and the blanket
Curls up
with the big cat
snuggles up to the big
brown-striped cat
And is able to fall asleep
at once

The big brown-striped cats
sated and heavy
along the whitewashed wall
had remnants of mice
in the corners of their mouths
and milky beards
It would take at least three hours

My hands have ears
when they stroke the cat
The words are on the outside
those that are hidden
from one time to the next

The cat tells me of
a low bridge
over shallow water
and something that shines
so far

if the pope could choose
he would have chosen the pond
all day
talked of this and that with the ducks
Each of them carries truths in its beak
and speak of things
that not even the pope knew about

Every time he has an hour to spare
the pope walks out into the garden
in his wide white robe
his dogs at his heels
to listen to
the latest news

The ducks are clear-sighted
They quickly recognise the pope
from one time to the next
big cheese in the grass

The pope
knows about the sisters in the garden
They have stolen eggs from the nest
they hide them in their cotton pants
while they smile to each other

The pope looks at them
from the tree
He too has found eggs
which he hides in his pocket
feels the smooth round shape
against a finger

In the evening he boils one of them
and eats it for dinner
along with a slice of bread and butter

The pope and his dog
each other well
Is that you
says the pope
Other those with wet noses
may read
my herbarium
The dog tells
its story
with small notes in the margin

When I draw the house
it’s without a door
but with windows
on all sides

The brown dog
with a broad back
jumps over the fence
and disappears

To begin with I thought
of the little deformed dog
as a soft small cheese
small dead herring
in the net
with fingers in the wrong place
And the sky was a blue melon
with the sun a hermetic peach
I wanted to eat with a spoon
The evening has never been juicier
the air never so sweet inside the mouth

Then I thought of
the grey dog
that was sick
on the carpet each evening
and that they had to put down

The dog
with the sad eye
sees everything that is sad

It follows the shadows in the garden
and counts the figures on the moon’s face

The dog has seen more
than is necessary
for a dog to see
therefore low-voiced it can
save an important star

It’s not always
that easy to be pope
says the pope
He hides under the table
and calls his dog to him
There he sits until it is dark
and everyone’s stopped looking for him
When everything’s quiet
in the Vatican
he crawls out
from under the cloth
and gives his dog
fresh water in its bowl
Then he eats letter biscuits
at the window

Once every six months
the pope goes round
to the cardinals
He has known them
for over twenty years
And each of them
has his own story
to tell
which the pope listens to
with bowed head

when the pope comes home
he takes his dog up
in his lap
and strokes it
along its narrow back
Then he tells everything
to the dog
who listens
with bowed head

I walk along the dikes
with the lake on my right
the dark expanse
the long line
from outpost to outpost

When the voice no longer holds

Then we must learn
from whales
to carry
the seven seas on our backs

More and more often
the pope goes out to his dog
and lies down
beside it
his head in close to the
big grey dog
Both have soft water
behind closed eyes
They know about death
and train a little every day
in the afternoon
while it’s still light
In this way they become worldly wise
and can give answers
When the pope’s not at home
Go to the grey dog
with your tears

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