The starving, too

Issue 2/1983 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

Poems from Det som alltid är (‘What always is’). Introduction by Sven Willner 

The starving, too

The starving, too, can
love, but their love is
simplified to hunger, its
principle. With the help of
another’s love the sated love
themselves, which they
otherwise would hate. And
stronger is perhaps the love
that saves,
but deeper is the one that
seals. People, of
whom all that is left is
a heart and its
two arms, give one another
their hunger.

In a glade

Whoever simplifies his life
to art evades it. Our
desperate scrawling on the wall
cannot hide it. Nonetheless
I write once more: Here is
the source, waiting like hunger.
Here is the church window of the spruce-fir
onto the dark. Here the path’s
searching shadow dies in the grass.

The hunter

The beast crouches. Cloudy
and grey its brain waits for
blood. A restless wound
in the skin of stillness
draws ever nearer. The beast of
prey tautens to pounding
darkness. The hare stops,
the trees stop, the shot
detonates. The hunter gets up,
human once more. Only
the action frees wholly
from the action. And yet
he is silent. The crime
can be expiated, but never
the resolve.

R. S. Thomas

Without hope he looks up
at the deadly silent hunger
that is called space; patient-
ly he contemplates
the buds of spring: they open,
sudden cries that congeal
to flowers. It is a matter
of waiting. In November
he goes over to
the window. Yes, the landscape
is visible again. The summer
was only its transient

Anna Akhmatova

Petersburg; the light footsteps
draw near. The houses are hazy
with time, but everything that happens
has the clarity of ritual
in this city, the shore
of infinite Russia.
In reality it is 1940
and the rattling waves of the sea
the inaudible future of the steppe
are drowning in cries and prayers.
To remember is resignation;
it is to choose one’s own
defeat, a clear
victory. Not to surrender, but
to stand still. It is masquerade
time in Petersburg. The dance glides on
and reality waits, the
lonely woman. It is war,
she writes.


Inside sleep he heard
the wave of footsteps moving towards him
over the sea of the floor. Eyes looked
at his brain. The voice
fumbled like a hand. Waking
was a way of
not answering. He looked up.
Slowly his gaze was veiled
by consciousness.


To have reached the goal
demands perseverance.


Someone looked for the first time
out towards the emptiness, shielded
only by his face. And
of his lost faith he missed
most the freedom
doubt had given.


Through the sparse movements
that surround its nest the bird
stares at eternity. Its eye
is wide-open and void. But
softly the cloudy birdbreast
sinks down, and
wells like hot mist over
the blind eggs.

The spruce-firs

There are no
spruce-firs. The earth
is probing With dull
fir-needle searchlights
in the opaque

Step one

They seek certainty
and darkness, not
knowledge. The answer is
the stone that kills
the bird of enigma.


He drifts without will in
the foetal waters of sleep.
And he awakes, saved
from his depths. Somewhere
farthest down I sleep
something is waiting.


The traveller attempts to travel
to the horizon. And
the hunter attempts to shoot
happiness. They demand
what is, in place of
what always is.

The mother

Fearfully they looked at the silence
in her tautening faced of them? Goodness
and wisdom? The children ran
out to play. All
they could give her was
cruelty and love.

Translated by David McDuff

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