Author: Ralf Andtbacka

The Mermaid Café

Issue 2/2000 | Archives online, poetry

From Cafe Sjöjungfrun (‘The Mermaid Cafe’, Söderströms, 1999). Introduction by Peter Mickwitz


Yesterday we had the first evening of autumn
even though it is still July. The cool
moist darkness lights that seemed
softer, the Esplanade’s octagonal cone
lit up red, yellow and green above
the underground tunnel from restaurant
to hotel. In the row of lime trees
worn garlands began to show, more
than a third of their light bulbs gone, broken
lines of burning dots gently
swaying. Farther away
sun-bleached awnings, some oily
neon, it, too, segmented,
and people moving
at a calmer pace, already anonymous,
close to unreal reflected in glass panes,
entryways, street lamps shaped like big hooks.
Traffic noise becomes more explicit
as if in an echo chamber or does it
grow more dense as if we walked about
with yellowing wads of cotton in our ears
or a window or a door was closed
and voices a moment ago
distinct, or at least partly,
are transformed into a numb buzz,
all that remains of the message
are ups and downs, a caesura when the conversation, at regular intervals,
reaches a rhythmic point of rest.