Scent of greenness

21 April 2011 | Fiction, poetry

‘Time the unstoppable’ features in the last collection of poems, Gramina, by Bo Carpelan (1926–2011), who reads timeless poetry while writing his own verses. In his introduction, Michel Ekman quotes the American poet and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson, who thought books should stimulate the reader’s thoughts instead of merely being devoured

Poems from the collection Gramina. Marginalia till Horatius, Vergilius och Dante (‘Gramina. Marginalia to Horace, Virgil and Dante’, Schildts, 2011)

Surf on the net –
in the net you are
with mouse and waiting spider


Fills life’s piggy bank
until it is emptied


The paved road of envy
where you stumble

Be sufficient unto oneself?
And who is this ‘self’
who doesn’t introduce himself?

Chance conducts
from an accurate score.

Sloth, friend Virgil,
has a deep and rich soil.
Diligence dries like clay
when drought reigns.
The water, it flows, flows
like sloth, in succulent verdure.

Revered gods of oblivion,
your absent-minded power
makes memory’s landscape bright,
clear and pure, scrubbed
like the floor of truth.

Outside the poem the indescribable world,
terrified of all that is boundless,
the crazy idea, the wind, the bird,
the scent of the meadow’s wild flowers.

Anxiety’s repose on the wads of banknotes.

Golfers, beware!
Do not fall down
into the last,
black hole!

(From the Horace [Horatius] section, ‘Satirer och epoder’, ‘Satires and epodes’)

If in the dream
I move about on the sea
my next day
is a longing to be gone.

Lived as if on the eve of the last day.
It came, unexpected.

Free winds on fields,
with rape golden yellow,
sky of clouds
in childhood’s summers:
pass away, time!
But time replies:
it is not I
who is passing away.

Say goodbye, say goodbye!
But to whom, to whom
when all have already gone?
To yourself, my dear,
to yourself.

That I have no sense of reality? What reality?
The one that sneaks away into the nearest dark entrance
or punches you on the nose in a fight at the pub?
The reality that sooner or later kills you
or what you remember of a tenderness forty years ago?
Reality right now, as if now there were anything at all,
all the talk of carpe diem? Seize the day. What day?
The one that saw you born or that sees you die?
This day has gone to its fathers. Sense of reality?
Seize it, pickpocket, take reality by the scruff of the neck
So you will see what happens, how it bites back.

(From the Horatius [Horace] section, ‘Oden’, ‘Odes’)

The horses saw us,
raised their heads
then continued on the dewy pastures
in the heavy scent of greenness
as though we had not been there
and were not there

To free oneself from oneself,
be merged in the poem, unite
in deepest friendship

(From the Vergilius [Virgil] section, ‘Aeneiden’, ‘The Aeneids’)

No other company
than the grass’s scent
the beloved’s image

(From the Dante section, ‘Den gudomliga komedin. Helvetet’, ‘The divine comedy. Hell’)

Never fondled as a child
declares proudly:
there is no solace!

If a part of us
already dead
follows us,
walks about

smiling pedantry

When the light no longer dazzles
that’s where your home is
and your rest

(From the Dante section, ‘Den gudomliga komedin. Skärselden’, ‘The divine comedy. Purgatory’)

Translated by David McDuff


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