Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Dark October

by Pia Tafdrup

To cross a strait
in a boat at night
   like my mother.
To cross a strait
at night in another cutter
   like my father.
To flee like growing crowds
                     of displaced persons.
The black water
          is open.
My mother without luggage, but wearing
layer upon layer of clothes,
crammed into the hold among many others,
down to her mother and sister
   with a hat to throw up in.
The order is for dead 
   until the boat is out of the harbour.
On the deck in the pitch darkness
follow my mother's father at sea
the voyage to Swedish territory
lashed to the mast
so as not to fall overboard.
No German patrols, only tugboats.
The black water
          is open.
Relatives are left behind —
friends   houses   belongings   a beloved country. 
To cross a strait
on a dark October night
with a fisherman and crew
who don’t know the exact route.
To try to find port
by sounding the depths,
try to find port with signals
from searchlights’ glare.
At last to dock at the right berth in Höganäs
shouted in by Swedish soldiers.
A way across the water      homecoming
with no home
        to what future?
Not to flee from oneself,
     but be allowed to be oneself.

translated from Danish by David McDuff

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