The dance of the living

Issue 2/1994 | Archives online, Fiction, poetry

From Dikter från havets botten (‘Poems from the bottom of the sea’, Söderström & Co, 1993)

Who was he that lived my life and now
is some Other? Who was the little boy
asking questions? Who the teenager asking
who the little boy was? The yellowing photo
remains, and the hand holding the photo. The photograph,
the hand, the image of the boy, the hand’s image.

*

There is a road no one has taken 
	before you.
Maybe it's yours.
if you find it, it will be.
It doesn't exist but comes into being when 
	you walk it.
when you turn around, it's gone.
No one knows how you got here, least of all 
	yourself

*

What we miss we never lose.
The one we loved we always miss.
We never lose the one we loved.
The one we loved we always love.

*

When someone we love dies every handle 
	disappears.
We grope but don't get a grip.
That's how it was the morning papa died, handleless. 
The last morning in the hospital I reached out
	for him with the arms of my gaze. 
Between us was a sea that only got wider.
A little boy who bore my name made a boat out of reeds, the wind 
	took it, steered it away.
It disappears out to sea, papa gets smaller and smaller 
	and is gone.
Handleless, out of reach, the little boy 
	and his papa.
I kneel down on the pier in the office and reach 
	the arms of my gaze out after us.
But we have no handle and no hold in the moment.

*

When you're dead you'll get to do everything you didn't have time 
	to do while you were alive.
You'll finally have time to yourself, you must promise to become 
	very selfish.
I see you before me: 'Don't think I intend to just sit
	here and rot.'
Finally you get to tell the President and the Minister of Defence 
	what you think of them.
Not to mention your wife, who 'stole your life'.
You'll be free as the gull you loved to watch through the window of 
	the sauna.
You'll circle the globe and visit other exotic
	places.
For God's sake, marry the miller's daughter, that was always your
	 secret wish.
You've begun your elocution lessons by correspondence, your
	mouth full of stones like the great masters.
Toward fall you'll compose a string quartet for grass fire, night 
	frost, compost, and sunset.
Like Wittgenstein you will learn to whistle all Schubert's
	lieder and symphonies except Alte Kameraden.
You'll develop your muscles, neglected in later years, by
	Atlas' method: lift the world onto your shoulders! 
When you are dead no one will keep you from taking back
	what life ran away with.

*

Who believes that shadows lack color 
	has never lived with shadows.
Death's black shadows are blue, or dark blue.
There are light yellow shadows that have escaped from 
	our childhood wallpaper.
When only the invisible was real, like
	the adults behind the drapery in the big hall.
As soon as papa vanished, things became blue, the color 
	of shadows dancing.
In our wood cellar were special shadows that gave you 
	splinters in your fingers.
They are still there.
I live my life among the living and the dead shadows. 
The living shadows keep the dead shadows
	dancing.
The dead love the dance of the living.
Because time has forsaken them, like the light that leaves 
	us when we stop dancing.

*

Like the shore we practice speaking
	with our mouths full of stones.
A slow rattling in the sunset.

*

Shadows. The shadows of shadows. 
Big slave ships cast their
	shadow over us. 
In the clouds are faces
	we once loved.
The one you have loved you have 
	always loved forever.
They move, they smile, their 
	lips speak.
Here they are, without intention, nameless, 
	as if they still lived among us.

Translated by Rika Lesser

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