Saturday, 7 January 2012

10 poems

by Rune Christiansen

A sheet of paper lit up by memory

But still – the poem's patient independence, and the shallow depths near heaven, a phrase I have from Ekelöf (‘As in the ballad’ published 10 October 1964), perhaps simply to remind myself that the draught from the open kitchen window, and the thin, cold drizzle, snowflakes almost, set the scene for an awkward perspective that evening. The year was 2003. How would it go with us?
  And on the grey respatex table, next to a black dice, lay the photograph of father, a picture that had once been stapled to a public document unknown to me. I noted that we did not resemble each other, but when I turned the face towards the twilight I found my way home all the same.

Lukas 9

A day of frozen lakes, in February the sun reigns only in shy glints, and the silence is on its way like space ships passing in the night. Soon it will snow, as in northern Japan, soon we shall be in the prime of sleep, and the universe will not weigh us down any longer. When I see you at a distance, on a white slope, I think: all that you take from me you will receive, and all that I borrow from you, you will inherit back.

Five allegorical sketches

The escalators down to the subway lead the shadows ambiguously home. In the absence of other gods, we eagerly greet the chill draught from the trains.


In Poems Around Zero Karl Vennberg wrote: "Someone, perhaps you, seems to be taking a rest, / though in great unrest," and then "Someone, perhaps myself, raises an arm / as against a delayed attack”, and elsewhere: "For a moment to stand there outside / and avoid recognizing oneself!"


We played soccer on a little patch of land, used an empty water bottle and a jacket as goal. I thought of all the years that had gone. When darkness came, we continued for another hour.


The two boys shivering in the rain will soon themselves turn into rain.


One no longer sees oneself as a child in one’s childhood.

The working class arrives in Paradise

1. It is 1975, I am twelve, I am travelling by train, I have planned to go to The Elysian Fields, or to Dalarö.

2. Oh, how I have missed surrendering myself to the warmth. Where are you from? a girl asks. It’s so bright around you.

3. Everything was in motion even though there was no wind.

4. They say that peace came, and that it was not expected. How did that happen?

5. I never said "dad" after I turned ten, nor "father" either, I referred to him by name, or I addressed him directly with a "you".

6. What remains? Only vague images of things that happened all too fast.

7. "Longing" is reminiscent of "long ago".

Julien Gracq (July 27, 1910 - December 22, 2007)

A boy does not speak the same language as a rabbit or a deer. An airport does not cry for help as a girl can cry for help. "At the bottom of the garden" does not mean "she is shaking with fever," but is from the same linguistic source. The one who says "let’s prune these branches" probably understands the one who talks about time as an exhausting preparation. The tablecloth is being stained while we discuss. Of course we agree about chestnuts, rain, farewells – for what we understand, what we grasp, is our leavings.  

The lonely clouds blow across the sky

Fatigue at a window overlooking a rain-soaked park, you lean out panting after the night's labour, the notebook with its scribbles lies open in the frame, the little cactus has capsized, and the clouds – they are gliding all over the public sector.

St. Nobody

Down in the street two young girls are kicking a football against a container, and so they set reality in motion, just as you once set love in motion in a hotel room in a city without memory.
  We don’t live long, we are teenagers, and then it is winter. But if we are lucky we shall meet again in another life, preferably on the coast, preferably in November, the reunion is pure experience – we both stand still in the snow with our own understanding.

I have always been here before

One morning you move without understanding poetry, in the light there is no room, only thin dust, cold in the corners. Life arrives with its tulips, the scorch-marks of New Year's rockets in the snow make you nostalgic. But what serves you? What is in your best interest? In a photograph taken in Turku in 1947 a grey horse is crossing a bridge. But what if this poem were to end like this: a boy leaves a girl with a certain melancholy – everything was new to them that night, they were disappointed.

Loneliness mistaken for a clear day

The snow-covered mountains in the distance are reminiscent of distant, snow-covered mountains, or capitalism, capitalism engulfed by death (can it be said so simply?).

You wait in a white car, the sun floods over the front windscreen and makes the glass soft, in the glove compartment – a postcard:

             VI. Winterkampfspiele, Garmisch-Partenkirchen 1941

No matter: from a great height the blue sky resembles any old desolate expanse.


Morton Feldman (12 January 1926 - 3 September 1987)

Why patterns? A distinct and compliant echo? Or is it rather a matter of a patiently extended waiting? Or drops that hesitate in the encounter with themselves? Of course it is drops, drops as we have forgotten them – slow and obvious, yes, obvious, for after all no one has ever said: I leave death to those who need it, but Basho mentions the cold rain.

translated from Norwegian by David McDuff