Issue 2/1982 | Archives online, Fiction, poetry

Introduction by George C. Schoolfield

The Cranes

Today the springtime shot its arrow point
into the winter’s heart:
the cranes’ crooked plow.
Today on the ice
the water splashed
half-a-yard high beneath the horse’s hooves –
may the magpie laugh cunningly
beside the ice-hole’s edge  –
beneath the snow the earth growls
the hidden bodies of the trees cry:
the cranes the cranes!

From Taggiga lågor (‘Barbed flames’, 1924)

On the roof
of my revolutionary balcony in Paris
I lick sunbeams
swirl them around within me
into jaguar-poems
sling them over the railing.

They fell! – on their claw-rich paws!
Police cocottes wheelbarrows
a mass
swelling forward twisting
bites cries passions
tumbling crushing breaking
(lamp-poles trees fences)
the walls bend
it’s not louses and lice
it’s my jaguars
that drive the people toward the Bastille – all Bastilles!

The stars smile:
on the roof of my revolutionary balcony
a rutting tomcat wauls.

From ‘Pause’ in Hårda sånger (‘Hard songs’, 1922)


This life!
this ‘to be a human’!
To live! Wonderful!
to be a child
learn to walk
reap the first sin
with sweaty fingers
sense the first remorse
with sweaty heart
– wonderful!
to mature
to become a man
to struggle –
oh to struggle to the last hot drop of blood! –
press yourself through years of anguish
to a few mute shrieks of splendor
moments of bliss;
to become alone –
Now I speak of what’s most wonderful:
to feel your own
patented forms
dig their way out of the mass’s mush
to become a mountain
to laugh at heaven
to mock mankind
inch by inch
step by step to approach
that which possesses many names
and is nameless, the highest –
more wonderful than wonderful!
(the words cease – the music begins)
l a r g o m a e s t o s o
(looking down on noisy furiosos)
the smooth
sunshine-shining strength-surfeited
surface of repose.


But –

From ‘The Dark Corner’ in Stenkol (‘Coal’, 1927)

Åland Symphony


Like white wolves ahunting
wavecrests on savage bay.
Saltstuff in the air,
needlesmell on the shore,
hissings sizzlings
spraysmack and roar.
A warrior’s song
done in green-blue-white –
there shines the sun’s
glittergolden sword!


My open window
sucks in the sea’s roar,
my open heart
hammers in pace with the sea.
Like the rainbow
my soul-tip sticks
its tongue into the sea’s womb,
bears on its arching back
in rhythmic pulses
its primal juice to me.


Imperious seawind’s
pressed fir against cliff –
it wanted to be green tower
and became but chastened rug
for the storm’s trampler-foot.
it calls
with awl-sharp needles cocked in air
for fresh grapples.


Headwind’s gull flaps
wails half-choked
starts to glide
stops still.
Then broadbosomed windblast
grips its shoulders with berserker’s fists
it sinks
the wing’s nearly snapped –
a mortal somersault!
it is saved!

From Stark men mörk (‘Strong but dark’,1927)


The springy dreams have fled;
the slack ones come.
No lushly heavy succubus –
just tiresomeness writ small
and food and drinking stuffs
instead of grand desire.
Or incomprehensible music
which you conduct all wrong.

Finnish Winter Dawn

We stand on snowy beach
and look across frozen reaches,
and it is still dark
and the cold’s pumice scours our cheeks.
We do not know what weather awaits us,
whether sun or mayhap wet snow –
all is so uncertainly possible
upon this beach and we have heard
how vessels foundered
and men on rocks were frozen.

Over there our houses lie
cowering tight to one another.
And they are not fair to behold
even in summer dress –
now faint the darkling shacks appear
from which not many glints of light
can reach us.
Meagre poverty, mostly, and creeping fear:
our world.

But look, look that way – there, yes there
the sun is seen this morning too ascending.

From Annorlunda (‘Otherwise’ 1948)



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