A fleeting scent

24 October 2013 | Fiction, poetry

Poems from Öar i ett hav som strömmar (‘Islands in a flowing sea’, Schildts and Söderströms, 2013). Introduction by Michel Ekman

A fig wasp’s life

She squeezes in. The opening closes and the world overflows. She swims in the sweet flowing moisture. In the sycamore fig tree, a myriad of delicate white blossoms have burst out. For her eyes alone, a damp garden, alabaster-clear. The home she’s been longing for. There she lays her eggs, empties her pouches. Tiny little pollen grains for the tiny little blossoms. Membranes form round the eggs, they live off the sweetness, it rocks them gently. Fine, frail swaying thicket of embryos


In one of the eggs in one of the capsules, she is taking form. In another egg in another capsule, he is taking form. The fig moisture evaporates, membranes harden, capsules shrink, small hard spheres. He bites his way out of his and straight in, in to her, into hers. Still inside his capsule he extends his organ and fertilises her, still inside hers. She becomes pregnant before she has hatched. The roundworms, too, hatch in the solidifying goo, force their way into her; they eat her slowly, letting her live, they need her. Along with her, inside her body they reach the glimmering white smile


She flies that evening. The journey of her life. In the air, a mild, fleeting scent. Around her swarm female fig wasps; they fly like her, allowing themselves, like her, to be led by the barely perceptible thinness. They are eaten by birds, ants, beetles, lizards; get stuck in spiders’ webs, encased in silken threads; become living provisions. If she makes it, if she gets there, finds her way, she will squeeze in. In the garden, swaying clusters of tender unseen blossoms heavy with sweet nectar. Perhaps this one is close by. Or else she will be carried on the wind over Africa’s sweat-red savannah and green-edged riverbeds towards the highlands looming blue in the honey night



I come rushing up, intending to make a train: it comes from the days just after the war and my mother is on it. When the train arrives at the station I hurry on board, so terrified of missing her. My father is also on the train, but at the other end. The train is packed but I manage to catch sight of my mother in the crowd. She’s just sitting there, so young. I hurry over to her and call out, ‘Mum, it’s Henrika! It’s Henrika! I’ve rushed here from the year 2011!’ She looks up, smiles, looks happy but surprised. She is so young and healthy. I wake up. Afterwards I can barely bring myself to recall this dream: it makes me distraught. I got to see my mother again, while she was enclosed in her own life. After the war she was seventeen or eighteen years old, hadn’t met my father yet, and I wasn’t even contemplated. Now I could have been a mother to the woman I’d met on the train.



Don’t think you know what’s happened

Don’t think you know what’s happening

Don’t think you know what’s going to happen

Don’t get in the way of your soul

Try not to run away

You’ve got to learn to take care of yourself

You’ve got to clear out your own cupboards

With a few minor injuries you can get around out there in the world

When you want to put your head through a wall it’s not the wall that puts you into a tight spot

If you’re on your own in a car you have to sit in the driving seat in order to drive

That which you continue to love must exist

The world is worth all the pain

Still, put up with being reminded of how another world, more beautiful, would also be possible

When there’s no use running it’s better to stand still

You don’t need to do anything, not even give up

It’s always possible but confusing to continue

Everything shall pass

Remember you can live and be a part of the ocean

You’ll have time to be dead

It’s already a lot for you to have come here


Translated by Ruth Urbom



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