The skin at its thinnest

Issue 1/1992 | Archives online, Fiction, poetry

Poems from Huden där den är som tunnast (‘The skin where it is at its thinnest’, Schildts, 1991)

Just now I find myself where I most of all 
	want to be.
Just now the view is the one I most want to look at.
She who is sleeping in my bed is the one I most want to 
	sleep with.
This sandwich tastes better than all other sandwiches. 
The grass on our side of the fence is greener than on
	the other side.
This summer is more beautiful than all the summers of childhood. 
The illnesses I suffer from suit me better than
	all other illnesses.
My loss is greater than any other I have encountered. 
I would not trade my face in the mirror for all
	the mirrors in the world.
*

A frozen person should not be
thawed too quickly.
The cells flood, walls bursting,
the heart stops.
Never put a frozen person
in a microwave.
Lay her on a hard bed in a room
facing north, open all the windows.
Don’t give her blankets or pillows, hardness
is what she needs.
When she starts to cry for water, toss
her a few lumps of ice.
When she’s hungry, a few crusts of bread.
Never stay so long in the room that she
grows attached to you.
She needs solitude, seclusion.
Give her a piece of coarse fabric to cover herself with.
When at long last she has regained some of her warmth
she will tell you about landscapes
of a singular beauty and starkness.
Every polar explorer, mountain-climber, person who sleeps outdoors
and doctor working in intensive care knows this.

*

Talk in the night on the porch, the cigarettes’
glowworms, the wine black in our glasses. We say
nothing much, ringed by the silence
arising from many years’ friendship and aloneness.
A few bats flit past behind the glass panes
as if they were our dead friends’ souls broken free
having chosen to remain here where life was whole.

*

All night we spoke about death, about everything we
did not want to relinquish,
our walks across the field down to the sauna,
the rain’s nightly drumming on the tin roof,
the physical desire to write,
our electrical assignations,
nights at the movies with licorice and sweaty palms,
books that were like knives of honey.
But also the angst, occasionally bearable, and
the mornings when you brought coffee into bed and read
aloud the headlines from the paper,
our children who quickly grew tall and vanished
from our lives,
the steaming cup of tea and the aspens whispering
through the open porch window.
The rowan signals with red stoplights,
the heart pumps assiduously,
from a blue saucer the cat laps water
and my thoughts spread like rings
on the water in the blue saucer.

Translated by Rika Lesser

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