Saturday, 14 May 2011

The Cool Day

My translation of Bo Carpelan's Den svala dagen (The Cool Day) is here. And some versions of poems from Carpelan's last collection, Gramina, together with an essay by Michel Ekman, are here.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Pia Tafdrup: Three Poems


You stiffen poisoned by sudden dread
while the day overturns and changescolour
and the blood beneath a steadily growing pulse
sends the pain out into the most finely branching net
where it flutters around like ash
at a wing-beat rising above the embers
until the heart, that coral tree
in acute flowering stands still in spasm,
near to drowning in its own blood
For who can go about immune in a city
where people live in separation
like shards of the same dream
The dark’s invasion of a stranger
– is the hatred taking hold of you?
Like stab of metal that gnaws into your flesh
far, far from that morning where newborn you
were blessed by the first light.

Mount of Olives

For all men have one entrance into life,
and the like going out.

Wisdom of Solomon, 7,6

Still is the Mount of Olives graveyard in sun
where caravans of stone travel acrossthe west-facing slopes
Still as those landscapes, which abruptly turn to desert
places that have not yet been assigned a name
where sand flies,settling in ever new formations
Still is the air, a rent in the garment
and the night on the mountain mild as under a bird's wing
Still stands the air among the graves
on which stones flower eternally for the dead
– Blessed be the Judge of Truth –
Still as in Jerusalem's depth, where the water drips
in the more than two thousand year-old cisterns
echo of souls that still watch and wake
Each drop falls with its click
one syllable, as in the word death.

Night in the Mountains

The sun that lays waste the squares at noon
sinks quickly near the 32nd parallel
but before it loses itself and each object creeps into the shadows’ depths
vast landscapes saturated in their tone appear
colours that beyond all reckonings of time cling round each other
to seep redeemed into the brain
You see a cypress bend beneath a bird’s weight
if it settles in the tree’s crest
You see mountains that may be moved by faith or crumble at a sudden command
a sky that may crackle with jet fighters
or a sudden rain of missiles
Sleep-heavy the traffic curves up the hill, but the sound of car horns fades beneath you
You will see contours wiped out by a steady hand
see sky and desert merge into one near the low mountains further away
Your eye will dwell on the Arab houses,which chameleon-like, pretty
glide together with the desert colours in the light of sunset
until a woman’s laughter bursts from the nearest house
and lights the city’s lamps

Mild evening air caresses the city afterthe sun has gone down
Let the darkness fall about you like those kisses
the young girl receives from her beloved in the tavern
The stones are still warm as his hands
Lean against these stones, stay sitting so long
that the cats, who at night wail with longing,are not afraid
but sneak out from their hiding-placesand rub up against your leg

Jerusalem's night is also yours, the light of the half moon
its gentle breeze, flowers that each individually close around their scent
the birds that are silent and the city's furthermost lights out there, where silence embraces all sounds
where no one hears your steps and no paths are beaten
No one will call you back from the grey zone
where you feel neither anger nor pain
but something will grow in you between sky and desert
where you reach no one and no one canreach you
something will shine with darkness and trump your earlier self

You will see the old new and the new old
it rests on your eyes how you look at this place
just as it depends on you what the city chooses in you
Say goodnight to the impenetrable darkness, to the star that shines so brightly
that its light is cast far into the days here.

(from Territorialsang [Territorial Song], 1994)

translated from Danish by David McDuff