We lay by a fire, John Janson and I, with Rikkika marshes close by,
at the blackening vastness he pointed and said: ’That’s where my mare had to die.
Do you know how it feels to put to an end the life of your very best friend,
when she’s kicked her way down in roots and in mud and one’s left alone to contend?
You should just have seen us at Bannberg forest, the harness-pin pushed through by snow,
and we loaded our timber, a saw’s length the stump, the top part six quarters, to tow.
Horse collars creaking and leather that’s stretched, frozen to chafing hard horn,
and life all depended on holes in the straps and that buckle prongs were not too worn.
Mornings when snow felt like fire all ablaze when one left the cabin’s safe cot,
and the bear-fastening seared through the gloves on your hands, just like an iron that’s red-hot.
Slopes where the screw coupling jumped at a jerk from nasty stones jutting like pegs
and three tons of timber shot from the load and skittled round Starlight’s legs,
and ended up crosswise and mashed and trashed the sleds’ gear that was steel-reinforced,
as if fired from a cannon one by one into the depths they then coursed. –
Days when the west wind was soft and warm and the forest stood soothingly wet –
oh, Starlight and I we fought night and day against want and poor tracks for the sled.
When the load stuck fast in bared-slopes’ grit when the last days of March were past
A shake of the reins was hardly required – Starlight heaved without being asked!
Days when the forest snow-crust just cracked and the lake-ice turned to and fro,
and pines that were centuries old simply snapped under tons of moist-dripping snow,
nights when in hours of moon-white mist the slush turned to stone in a trice,
days when the sun stuck hole on hole in the bog-ponds with grainy ice.
Nights in the horse blanket’s threadbare warmth, black with the charcoal-house dust,
when with me in the wagon’s protective cage, through snowstorms she pulled at full-thrust.
Moonlit paths in raging gales that smothered my urging shouts
and merely a twitch on the reins at times were signals to clear any doubts,
were signs between us half-frozen pair that you gave it all that you had
and were thanks from me that you gave yourself to a hard and poor life, good or bad.
The short cut at the neck of Bastmyren bog and a gunshot from Lammaloms Nor,
when the evening was frosty, the mire seemed firm, I prayed God there wasn’t a thaw.
You seemed to be flying, so lightly you moved and dealt with each hazardous sway.
A jerk and you seemed to take a sharp breath when the yellow-black ice gave way.
It took but an instant, I came to your aid with a single mighty leap,
and my knife hacked and hacked through all the straps round your body that slowly sank deep.
Nobody answered my calls of distress: no village lay near at hand,
and I saw both your forelegs pounding to foam the loose and now waterlogged sand,
I cannot remember, time ceased to exist, just how long the struggle went on
before your head sank and your last wild-eyed gaze was spattered in mire and was gone.
I saw – both your hind legs were out of their depth – you were lost but continued to fight
You still went on moving, I stood there and watched for an hour, maybe two, in the night.
Then once more you raised your ears from the sand – would dawn come before you were dead?
And I shivered and gritted my teeth before I returned for a while to the sled.
There lay my old rusty axe which had hacked through many a hampering root
and had knocked off so many clumps of dark ice from Starlight’s hobbling foot.
And I took it and silently slithered up close, shut my eyes when I struck the hard blow,
and with wide-staring eyes I watched and watched as Starlight sank down below,
how the swirling turned brown as the bubbles rose up to waterlogged sand and then spread,
and just at that moment the sun came up and coloured the mountains deep red.’
He fell silent. The bog stood dank and lukewarm, with vapour round jetty and slope.
And I heard my own heart beating time like a clock – the wilds spoke of peace, even hope.
To see the original, go to here
dage around my right hand that
seal it with gaffer tape then
give the title ‘wrapped hand’ (see
Jag står vid vägens sista, höga grindar,
och kring mig blåsa kvällens svala vindar,
och innan solen purpurröd gått ner,
jag hunnit upp min längtans högkvarter.
Jag ser på livet som på sländors vimmel,
inunder sommardagens höga himmel,
och längtar att vid dagens skumma slut
få falla i det stora mörkret ut.
Mitt liv, min kraft jag gav åt blodets strider,
och tackar glatt för gångna kämpatider,
för alla heta slag på solbränt grus,
och segerfesters jubeldränkta rus.
Jag hör en storm som går på vingar tunga,
och midnattsåskans vita blixtar ljunga.
Hell, tordön, hell! Jag svänger högt min hatt,
och hälsar livets svala avskedsnatt.
Nu stundar fest, nu varslar uppbrottstimma,
då fri och frälst jag upphör att förnimma,
och stiger i det namnlöst mörka ner -
och jublar, faller, ler och finns ej mer.
My journey’s last, high gates stand right before me,
and round me evening breezes curl demurely,
and ere the sun has set in crimson glow,
I’ve reached my yearning’s home base here below.
Like dragonflies I view life’s great commotion,
that teem and swirl in summer skies’ great ocean,
and at day’s murky end my longing’s stark
to fall into the vast void of the dark.
My life, my strength I gave to blood-strife madly,
and for past times of battle would thank gladly,
for all fierce fighting waged on sun-burnt grit,
ecstatic victory that ended it.
On heavy wings I hear a storm come lashing
and midnight thunder’s lightning brightly flashing.
Hail, Thor-blows, hail! I wave my hat on high,
and greet life’s parting in the cool night sky.
Now revels start, now comes the time for leaving
when, free and saved, I cease all this perceiving,
descend into the dark’s deep nameless core –
exult while falling, laugh – and am no more.
To hear the song sung in the original to new music by Elwe, go to here
Nu mörknar min väg och mitt dagsverk är gjort,
mitt hjärta är trött, min säd har jag sått.
Som tiggare står jag, o Gud, vid din port,
och blodrosor växa på stigen jag gått.
My way now grows dark and my day’s work is o’er,
my heart it is tired, my seed I have sown.
I stand as a beggar, o God, at your door,
and on my trod footpath blood-roses have grown.
To hear both versions in a new musical setting by, and sung by, Elwe, go to here
Are the colours duller now?
I don’t know, I see them more clearly.
But it’s in my eyes it first grows dim.
The book titles recede into the shelf
as if from now on they wanted to be on their own.
The dropped screw is hopelessly lost,
in the semi-dark under the bench. People
on the other hand, much clearer now.
People in my youth, vague shadows
with blurry contours at the edges. I must
have been looking for something else.
But that something can’t be seen at all now.
Thirteen Sanskrit words for happiness
When a soprano sings ’Fly away breath’,
the room and the narrow field of vision expand
and we drift off towards dreams,
those which in the course of a single night and in similar fashion
can put a whole year of learning to shame.
The song is caught in the funnels of memory, get lost, followed by our thoughts,
noble or base. Isolated and yet linked at the same time to others’ thoughts;
complex series of considerations and sudden ideas, sighs and snaps and breaths
from us ectomorphs or introverts or us left behind, gathered here in the
semi-dark room, weighed down by Lutheran doctrines and Nordic legends.
Until light once more reaches us, and we move tentatively, recognise nerves,
hamstrings, musculature, and the alert original instincts from a
Out there a predatory bird devours its prey.
In the earth Celtic belt-buckles lie hidden.
Above us the troposphere spreads out, laden with vapour and light.
Overtones and connections, glowing,
transformed from the mud, flickers in towards an open eye, yours perhaps.
the palm of a hand is lit up, mine perhaps.
Is song simply bait, laid down to coax out thirteen Sanskrit words for happiness?
On the wall hangs the amateur painting of a rough sea.
On the floor lies the carpet, infested with all sorts of micro-organisms.
Up under the roof an indefinable vocabulary oozes away, and
not a single sentence obtains a foothold inside here.
Outdoors there is presumably some activity, so I go out, drift along the street,
address strangers on the pretext of having lost my way.
I memorise the words they use when they with great kindness attempt
to explain the way to me:
Turn right, keep left, up, down, straight ahead,
back, forward, short, long, inside, outside.
I put my trust in these directions as if they were
passwords, as if they would be able to lead me to the stocks
the day is said to keep guard over.
Is it perhaps the lizard that can be seen half-camouflaged in the cotton clouds over me,
or the outstretched deepwater fish, floating among the blue patches of sky.
Can it be the birdsfoot trefoils, sweetened and sipping at the ground, or the mountain in
silhouette, or the distant arctic seas that have swallowed ice-masses for millennia,
and that are still hungry, wasteful and dark.
Or can it quite simply be this chaste paper on which nothing has yet been written?
Everything seems to have a disproportionate faith in me, expect me to be
the shaman himself, the connection between them and the words long waited for.
The words crackle temptingly close by, then withdraw quickly, flatten out
while more between heaven and earth continue to offer themselves.
While there are still clear skies and daylight I attempt to catch twenty
consonants and nine vowels, and some unidentified particles.
From the homemade trap into which they have gone, I fetch them out, fit
them together. It seems to be a kind of language, binary and unpredictable,
and it puffs itself up into some ethereal constructions, bright-eyed and rosy-cheeked.
But when an archaic storm blows up, not unexpected here in these
parts, the consonants and vowels give way, and the whole thing tumbles in a nasty
Si vous n’aviez la mort, vous me maudiriez sans cesse de vous en avoir privé. J'y ay à escient meslé quelque peu d’amertume pour vous empescher […] de l'embrasser trop avidement et indiscretement. Pour vous loger en cette moderation, ny de fuir la vie, ny de refuir à la mort, que je demande de vous, j'ay temperé l'une et l'autre entre la douceur et l’aigreur.
(Montaigne, Essais I, XX)
If you did not have death, you would endlessly curse me for having deprived you of it. I have advisedly mixed a little bitterness in it, to prevent you […] from embracing it too avidly and indiscreetly. To place you in this state of moderation, of neither fleeing life nor fleeing away from death, which is what I ask of you, I have tempered both of them somewhere between sweetness and bitterness.
There was a ring at the door and when I opened it, I saw a horse standing there. I was six years old and asked the horse: ’Who have you come to see?’ The horse asked if my aunt was at home. I knew that horses couldn’t speak, but luckily could see a man’s legs behind the horse. I shouted: ’Aunt, there’s a man with a horse for you.’ My aunt shouted back that she wasn’t at home. I conveyed the message, she wasn’t at home. I was staying with my aunt because my parents were on holiday for the first time since the war. It was 1946, they were spending three weeks in Switzerland and bringing a watch home for me. I wore it for a long while, but at some point in my life it got lost. I later also heard that my aunt had been married to a horse-dealer. She got divorced when she noticed that he had lady-friends. She was against infidelity, she recalled that at the wedding ceremony this had been mentioned, they had promised to be faithful to each other. The horse-dealer felt that a little adventure on the side from time to time was the icing on the cake, and after the divorce sometime came to try and explain this. Always in vain, she never wanted to see him again. She didn’t loathe men, she wasn’t vindictive. She had remarried, this time with a lion-tamer. He travelled through Europe with a circus. He was very strict with his lions, but gentle and caring with my aunt. Anyone reading this is aware that existence can be hard and empty, and that fate knows no justice. After three years, the lion-tamer was killed by one of his lions and my aunt left the circus. In our family everyone thought that this must have broken her spirits, but this was not the case. She discovered Montaigne, a French writer from the sixteenth century. He was a respected judge and for eight years was mayor of Bordeaux. In 1568 he fell off his horse and almost died. After this incident he realised the role death plays in our lives. He retired to his estate to write about himself. My aunt read everything he had written and a statement by him hung on the wall. I want you neither to flee life, nor recoil from death. She had a cleaning lady from Lebanon who dusted off these words every day out of admiration for her mistress – and also a bit for Montaigne.
Velde, from Old Norse vald (might, dominion)
1. Power, right of disposal, governance
2. Area, land over which one has disposal, property
One foot in Hades, one foot in the world
When days and nights have hypnotised each other, and heaven and earth
plundered each other of time and place, I take things into my own hands,
wake up the days once more, restore time and place.
But soon another countdown starts, and there is a gasping for air,
winter makes me feel claustrophobic.
Not only has the town I live in become too constricted for me.
Norway is narrowing even further, Europe is as noisy as ever,
the sea is rising, and even outer space has become too small,
almost overgrown as it is with satellites and figments of imagination.
The living wander about, talkative, but with little to report. The dead
are omniscient, but incommunicative, keep silent about everything.
The unborn have all the time in the world, but are agile and
evasive, nor do they ever answer.
When I look up for guidance, the cardinal directions get entangled
in each other, gang up with the harsh regions where I was first
expelled then played havoc with, but finally declared alive, and
aching at times, so cool and strong at times,
begins fortunately enough to start moving again in mid-March,
in a strange, I note, and unknown tempo, so I turn in surprise. There is a
mythological figure following me, close on my heels. I do not
recognise her at once, but believe it must be Persephone. She with
one foot in Hades, one foot in the world,
now on her way up to the light, along with me.
New summers, new millenniums
The early summer, surrounded by a Genesis-like shimmer of joy
There shall be animals in the forest and fish in the water.
There shall be cattle tracks and boat landing places
and aspen, fern fronds, clover and mullein
shall be allowed to grow in peace, here
in the west of the country.
I think I hear these warnings above the roar of waterfalls, laugh,
for it is hopeful and comes out of the blue,
and the early summer can surely not be mistaken?
I dig a hole, and were I to find something in the barren soil,
a handle or a key or a rusty cross from the Viking Age,
I would brush the earth off it, wash it in the stream, hold it up to
the sky, as a monition against destruction.
I find nothing, stones on stones are all there is here.
But the aspen absorbs water through its ingenious transmission system,
rustles its leaves as only the aspen can, and I wade through the stream,
Transport my own organs with me: my smooth, well-shaped liver, intestines
coiled up in their nest, sphincter muscles wisely distributed about my body.
In the undergrowth the early Devon ferns grow twelve millimetres a day,
and the season, with the Genesis-like shimmer of joy about it,
continues to promise new summers, new millenniums.
Each day exists at the selfsame pitch,
quiet, humdrum days that seem unsustaining;
But I can greet them without complaining,
my chain of life will e’en so be rich.
With some pearl necklace one can’t compare,
each link of which is a precious jewel;
of my deep joy and its true renewal
the outward glittering trace is rare.
A thread though, a hidden thread runs through
the calm, simple parts, their full sense ensuring,
my treasure’s this – a wholeness enduring,
whereby my heart beats with joy anew.
To see the original poem, go to here
on whitsun morning – rhumba
ny rate (as everyone knows) close
one believes) or maybe the
fess that i have cut the hood
seemed a complete cock-up to
bog man and that i have thrown
because it could have been shown
To see the whole collection, go to here
quake fault lines seismic fault lines