It is the way it is

Issue 3/1989 | Archives online, Fiction, poetry

Poems. Introduction by Claes Andersson

One never swims out into the same waters
In the light night waits immediately below
One falls like a leaf through the space
of seconds, a wind blows
darkness against your cheek.


There is a certain kind of loss
and September’s objectivity

releases something imperceptible,
and is displaced: it makes

no difference. It is a coolness
that has settled on the surfaces,

it kept me quiet. One sits
on a bench that looks like other benches,

trains leave on time, dogs bark,
one is. Close to you

I read books and confused my name
with names of other places: a summer kitchen

with radio news in front of blowing curtains,
my cousin sailing in the bay

I stood on the threshold of my mother’s bedroom,
she was not there

Bedrooms smell differently in summer:
a weather of gentle snowfalls

One sees a snake and treads carefully
on the grass for a few days. Constantly weakened

by revenge: I inform against myself. There was
a magic room that was called Childhood

and always the same unfamiliar personal description
I have kept quiet for a long time. And now

the wind takes hold of the sail
and drives my cousin straight across the bay

the small red sail red against the green


Foliage mirrored in the eye, the broken neck
describes what it’s like to be a bird and fly
towards foliage mirrored in the shiny heavens:
a confused memory of the joy involved in rushing
to one’s rendezvous with someone so like oneself.


It is the way it is.
It may seem
It is hopeless.
Use only according
to the instructions, avoid
hysteria. Avoid
anorexia nervosa. At first
one cries a lot, doesn’t want
to be a mistake and the Flowers of
Evil. One begins to feel better.
Someone stretched out
naked and didn’t want to.
Someone let it happen.
One acknowledges parcels
that contain darkness quarried
from darkness in another place.


One reports oneself missing.
One reports oneself damaged.
I kept someone tightly
in my mouth until it


They come out at dusk, level
shadows across the fields. They are composed in equal
parts of pig, badger, fox. Helplessness
is their principal distinguishing mark. They root in the snow
for something to eat. We find them unnatural:
their aimless wandering, their hunger, their obscene
lack of protection. At the first sign of danger the he-martin
lies down and pretends to be dead. We find such behaviour
pathetic, we find the pathetic repulsive, we
are outraged by the hungry shadows of
this sugar-beet field, so unlike the snow leopard that silently
pursues its prey six thousand metres above sea-level.


Does one get used to them, Claes?
To these perpetual accident sites?

Music is order, to play
so that the subterranean parts

survive the winter, that which is yearning
and prison, Claire de lune

‘Friendship is a loneliness
freed from loneliness’s fear’

Does one get used to them, Claes?
To these perpetual accident sites?

Months of animosity, the vapour of fever
and distance in the children’s breathing

The waterfall, the ever-collapsing
wall of sobbing and upsets

What’s left is perhaps
chance rooms, an uneventful

view of a country road in October.
To play so that something winter-survive

us all and the gentle trees
in a season of breaking glass.

To live in its reflection
was sufficient. Rain

streams like silver in June
A festival’s progress. We are played out

on an old-fashioned open-air stage
with birch-trees, in transformation

I long for home. The sense of
lightness in the water

The sense of lightness when one
comes out of the water

One asks someone to return,
they return at night

uninvited. Rain streams
against silver-rotting wood


Come home from the dark waters
Come home from out of the gale
Like a first-former with your red
schoolbag on your back, come home.
Confusing what
was, confusing you.
The days look like one another.
Rows of jars filled with blood and mucus.
It’s a question of not remembering
It’s a question of not remembering that morning
dawn by the smooth water, real
as an imagining!
Once upon a time there was innocence and delight
Once upon a time there was a reckless purity
One is a moment
One is a sandy floor in the market tent
One ferries ice-skates and small children
to and fro along icy winter roads in one’s yearning
for the cool light, come home


There is a despair
so great that it cannot be seen: a smoke
in our breath on cold days, a
tiredness, a dream of surrender
It merges with the water’s cycle
that holds our bodies captive
It occupies our memories and returns
its inventories in unrecognisable form
Its victims oppose
salvation. Its sign is want
It lacks gestures or
written signs: shells of small creatures
stratified to limestone.

There is a despair as inescapable
as ice, the fishes’ white-shimmering sky.


As if in prayer
a little girl stands still
with raised hands
in the water, swims out. So our summers
go by: in the shadow beneath tall
trees, and the other bank in sunlight.
The smoke from the sauna wanders strangely
along the slope
A mist drifts across the water:
The one you are waiting for will not arrive
The one you are waiting for is travelling elsewhere
Dew is falling, the apples are falling
A girl is still playing on the riverbank
as if she were little
‘But can’t you see? It’s me!’
It starts to snow violently:
We take place at unknown depths
in insufficient light, but what
can be seen is beautiful.
The cracks, the water. Vessels
of fever and salt.

Translated by David McDuff


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