Tuesday, 10 March 2009

The Table of Loss


By Pia Tafdrup

Behind black-and-white photos in ancient albums
my father recalls sounds
of spring rain, smells
of freshly mown hay, biting
the first ripe ears of grain in cornfields.
An instant later each detail
whirls up
in distant nebulae.
My father vanishes, as days
take flight.
There are no figures that cover
loss, no figures
for the taste of summer on the tongue,
newly picked, bursting red cherries.
And in blizzards
hot steaming cocoa in front of the hearth,
when the avenue up to the farm was blocked.
The water, the air, the earth, the fire, my father’s
attentive gaze
made me throw myself out
over an inner gate,
climb high up trees,
in dreams −−−
I have set some sums
that won’t add up ―
there are steps
across logic,
solar systems of the inexplicable.
Even though he’s alive,
I’m looking for
my father in my father...
A rough tongue
licks my hand,
I won’t drown
in a salt tear,
the cat arches its back, it is now that it wants to be fed.

Translated from Danish by David McDuff


Eric Dickens said...

The key sentence in this elegiac poem is, for me at least, "even though he's alive, / I'm looking for my father / in my father". Because you are expecting from the beginning, that she is mourning her father. What she is mourning is lost in time. Then the cat licks her hand and she's back in the here and now.

David McDuff said...

Unfortunately the Blogger interface has removed the typographical indents and line-shifts in the text of the translation - perhaps I can find a way of reproducing them later.

It is a nice poem, though. Thanks for the feedback.