Friday 27 November 2020

Pia Juul: First poem from the collection 'Avuncular' (2014)

What is an ‘onkel’

A Danish word

look it up

but wait a bit before looking it up

let me feel something first

onkel’s far removed from all definitions

a longing for a moment feeling safe in

childhood but not a person a state is

what’s contained in the word, perhaps an o

maybe an letter o pronounced å. Oh Åh. Oh you onkel.

Oh my onkel. Åh ånkel. Mon oncle Jules, a title that occurs

to me, Uncle Tom, Uncle Anders, Uncle Sam and all the

other uncles one knows without knowing them, also my

own uncles and yours, but…

(I’ll say it straight away:

comfy uncle

the most uncomfortable word in my dictionary,

closely followed by: playful uncle)

… but it’s not only childhood, the safe feeling of childhood

isn’t what it is

Eastern window-panes afar* each time I read this I sing I think

Åh, onkel Jeppe, but without thinking it even so , for he’s

not my uncle though I don’t call anyone anything just for

fun, but Flare up in the gloaming, it’s the uncle-like feeling I’ve mentioned

not the longing but the fulfilment of it, a full and round

moment as round as an uncle, and what’s more I don’t know if he borrowed

aunt Agnes’ money, and that’s uncle-like although he was younger than

she was and had this large poet’s head of hair, Moorland ponds like tiny stars

Catch the sunset’s homing.

Out in the twilight of the garden I see a yellow leaf fall to the ground,

it floats rather than falls, it takes its time


* Quotation of last verse of Jeppe Aakjær’s poem ‘Aften’.

   To see it in the original and in English, go to here.

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