The dead speak kindly

1 November 2012 | Fiction, poetry

Memory, winter and everyday are studied in Tua Forsström’s new collection of poems, En kväll i oktober rodde jag ut på sjön (‘One evening in October I rowed out on the lake’, Schildts & Söderströms, 2012). Introduction by Michel Ekman

I fell through the papers laid aside
I came to a place where I was supposed to stay

for four nights but I stayed four years
Someone said: you have caused the council considerable expense

I said: this is my situation
A brave little cat came to my rescue

I could see what I wanted in the dark
at night and no one saw me

It was like a dream but I wasn’t dreaming
I was not afraid and I could pass through chalcedony

I could pass through quartz crystals
I could pass through sad and sick

On the bottom in the mud coins from many lands lay gleaming
We wish for anything between heaven and earth

All that we see and cannot see and lost
I do not recognise myself, and no one sees me

Everything happens for the first time and we become afraid
At the forest’s edge some aggressive act has taken place

There is a lukewarm smell when people and animals are slaughtered
I fell through the tiresome retakes

I say that I have been on a course but it doesn’t help me
I simply mean that the pictures are so disparate

‘In a way we can all be swapped round’
Sticks and straws, something about lacking dimensions and limits

Someone came walking in the rain and said come with me
and I won’t let go of that hand

We hurry out when the alarm goes off,
stand in excited groups with
coats over nightgowns and chatter. ‘When
the expected course of everyday life is interrupted,
we are like shipwrecked people on a miserable plank
in the open sea, having forgotten where they came from
and not knowing whither they are drifting,’ wrote Albert Einstein
at the age of sixty. The smoke is ventilated, the firemen
leave. We can go back to our rooms.
I close the window: fresh, full moon over the snow.
The clear night. A green-shimmering light above
Stockholm, as if we were inside the ice.

The dead speak kindly to us
but we become frightened, get

things mixed up
There is a dark material

The dead don’t care about it
We offer them an apartment with

windows facing the courtyard but they come and go
Don’t sleep at night, don’t

use medications, don’t sweat
Don’t buy expensive clothes

I ask after my mom and dad
At Mjölbolsta I run into the thunderstorm, the rain

turns to hail, it’s completely white
I pull in to the side of the road at the old driveway to

the sanatorium with the heavy chain across the road
A police car slows down, and continues

We don’t want to let our childhood down
I tell my parents that they mustn’t

worry, the dandelions have finished flowering
and soon the repair work will be done

I ask about the dark material
I ask if they are homesick

They turn their faces towards me,
seem interested

Seem thin and terribly strong
It’s a density I don’t understand

Perhaps they are surprised when
we laugh and cry awkwardly

There’s a wild pattering on the pane, small
round hailstones bounce up and down,

consist of layers of ice
Perhaps the dead don’t play, they flounder

and volatilise
I ask them to help, explain

that the university is to be closed
and winter is coming, they don’t seem to understand

(To a hare at night with darkness evenly
 distributed without stars, the sky hidden by clouds.
 [a painting by artist Risto Suomi, Yömatka / Night journey])
There are pictures that make it possible to see what we
    cannot see
There are stars that are not visible and somewhere else
    blue and swans
The hunters hunt and carry guns on their shoulders in the forests
The hare travels at night. In someone's dream
There are star-couplers, multiphase systems
The hare belongs to another circle that we all belong to
Search words: forest hare, found in abundance, no restrictions
    on shooting
But the hare's heart is strong and pure
The hare knows foreign lands and peoples
The hare has counted the injured
The hare knows who are hungry and have no home
The hare visits those who have been thrown in jail
The hare is not sentimental, but the hare weeps
We grow old, confused
‘I burned unnecessarily, for unnecessary things’
It is quiet when one travels at night, the rain
    rustles against dark leaves
We feel gratitude when the wild creatures come near
    without noticing us
There are pictures that make it possible to see the other,
I do not know in whose dream you are in the evenly distributed
    darkness and it is raining roses over all creatures


The thing with sorrow is that one thought there
was a fire but it is starting to rain. The brushwood smokes
listlessly for a while, it is far too sparse or dense
and on the field remains a dark installation sprawling
to the sky. The smoke from the clear evenings in April has
stuck in the jacket in the hall. Far from the city’s lights
So many years have passed, but flakes detach at the slightest breath
and blow out across the lake and up toward the house where I lived
with my parents and my brother, in our family.


The next chapter is called: before we forget
The next chapter is called: the darkness
the rain the kindness
It is already October and blowing hard
I must drive firewood home
I must turn the key in the lock
And then I hear again that voice,
mysterious and clear
You are old now little child
don’t be afraid little hare

Translated by David McDuff


1 comment:

  1. Martha Smith

    Loved the phrase “We don’t want to let’s our childhoods down…” that’s why I’m beginning to write my family history and visit with my departed ones. You are an inspiration. I found this site after visiting the Finnish Embassy in Washington for a concert tonight.

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