Talking to Andrei

30 June 1998 | Fiction, poetry

Poems from Efter att ha tillbringat en natt bland hästar (‘After spending a night among horses’, Söderströms, 1997)

The snow is whirling over the roses of the inner courtyard

The snow is whirling over the roses of the inner courtyard.
Did not bring boots or scarf with me, leaf
through books, don’t know what to do with all this light!
You would not approve of the colours.
It’s too impressive, Andrei Arsenyevich, there is too
much, too much of everything!
You swapped your wings for an air balloon, a clumsy
contraption twined together from ropes and rags, I remember it well.
Earlier, I had a lot and didn’t remember. Hard
to keep to the point. Hard to keep to the point.
Hope to get back. Hope to get back to the principle
of the wings. Fact remains: the cold preserved
the rose garden last night. ‘The zone is a zone, the zone is life,
and a person may either perish or survive as
he makes his way through this life. Whether he manages it or
not depends on his sense of own worth.’* A hare
almost leapt into the vestibule here at the Foundation,
mottled against the snow; in the hare’s diary it’s October, after all.
You seem to be in quite a malignant humour,
and it is possible that none of this interests you.
On the other hand, you quite often complain yourself.
I’m writing because you are dead and because I woke up
last spring in my hotel facing the street in Benidorm to that wonderful
high twittering. One ought not to constantly say sorry, one ought
not to constantly say thank you, one ought to say thank you. Lake Mälaren like lead down there. The rest is white and red.

*From Time within time. The diaries 1970–1986 by Andrei Tarkovsky

Never make friends with a crow

Never make friends with a crow
said a biologist on the radio. The crow
will quickly grow attached to you, it will knock at
the window constantly, a crow easily becomes psychotic.
Nothing happens here. Nothing. Gardens
in rain. Lemons in moonlight. A flock of jackdaws rose with a
violent hubbub near the ruins yesterday evening. The bells gentle
through the mist. The vapour, the bell-sounds. I once saw
a little girl’s eyes go behind a cloud, it was irreparable
from the start, it hurts. The cloud moved over the
violet white slowly inward towards
the pupil and then I couldn’t
follow it any more, the cloud.

On how prolonged weightlessness affects living creatures

The dogs in your films remind us
of Laika. Did you too once stand
on a hill and watch that small light travel
across the evening sky? If the dog could
see out, it would have seen the radiant blue
globe with oceans and clouds. On the ground
Laika’s breathing was monitored. The satellite
hurtled into the atmosphere and Laika fell,
falls in the wind-draught through black mirrors,
must not be space-sick any more, doesn’t have
to eat when the bell rings. Laika no longer
travels in a hermetically sealed cabin,
wired to instruments that show how
prolonged weightlessness affects living
creatures. Laika journeys in the darkness
pure in heart, with all ownerless dogs.
Laika’s memory was honoured in the Soviet Union
with a new brand of cigarette.
The first dog in space
did not return, returns
as dust and rain.

It doesn’t usually snow in Central Sweden in October

Birgitta had put flowers in
the room in a glass, faint light-violet against
the snow, small anemones with very thin
petals and clearly-marked nerves. It is all as it was before.
But we were unprepared for the snow, it doesn’t
usually snow in Central Sweden in October.
We don’t feel very happy, Andrei Arsenyevich!
You will hardly appreciate me writing this kind of thing.
But we are lonely. And we are tired. And we are
deceitful. And we miss our parents.
There’s a muttering behind the wall, insects
thud against glass, is someone trying to make fun of us again?
We fall ill, we forget. We easily burst into tears.
You know what it’s like. You know what we’re like, you find it
unacceptable. You consider that it ought to stop.
But I think that this elevated establishment would
appeal to you, with its cool smell of quicklime, cellar vaults,
the bay like aluminium, the bells. The little islet
called Africa. The overtones. The semitones.
One has to begin somewhere. But perhaps there is
no end, only waterlogged forest and the reek of grass and
the fens, Andrei Arsenyevich.

The horses

After spending a night
among horses I remember what a fresh

smell of ammonia and
melted snow there was, the green moon

above the green snow-crust, a rat
squeaked in the forage box, how cold I was

in my track suit and woollen hat by
morning and how quietly the horses slept.

Whoever has been there

It’s still snowing.
I go up into the tower room and look yet
once again out over the bay: gravity and vertigo.
Someone phones, with optimistic
suggestions, and of course: it’s possible to dance the fox-trot
to the last. But I would rather make an excursion
to a nearby local history museum or enrol
as a mezzo-soprano in the church choir, even though I’m not
a very good singer. It isn’t easy. It’s really
problematic. I know which continent
you prefer, but nowadays there is an imbalance there between
the species: everyone took with them some small animal they didn’t
want to leave behind. Now the animals are eating one another. I know what regions
you like, whoever has been there always
longs to go back. The sweat, and all the things that crept along
the walls as one was going to bed. In the tropics
ownerless dogs aren’t ownerless in the same way,
they live and die. The snow whirls ever harder over
the roses, the night’s darkly shimmering remains.
We don’t remember everything, but much.

Translated by David McDuff


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