03 February 2013

Chickens, Haydn, Fear

                              Tomas Tranströmer


After a black day, I play Haydn,
and feel a little warmth in my hands.

The keys are ready. Kind hammers fall.
The sound is spirited, green, and full of silence.

The sound says that freedom exists
and someone pays no tax to Caesar.

I shove my hands in my haydnpockets
and act like a man who is calm about it all.

I raise my haydnflag. The signal is:
"We do not surrender. But want peace."

The music is a house of glass standing on a slope;
rocks are flying, rocks are rolling.

The rocks roll straight through the house
but every pane of glass is still whole.


Sometimes my life opened its eyes in the dark.
A feeling as if crowds drew through the streets
in blindness and anxiety on the way towards a miracle,
while I invisibly remain standing.

As the child falls asleep in terror
listening to the heart's heavy tread.
Slowly, slowly until morning puts its rays in the locks
and the doors of darkness open.

Standing Up

In a split second of hard though, I managed to catch her.  I stopped, holding the hen in my hands.  Strange, she didn't really feel living: rigid, dry, an old white plume-ridden lady's hat that shrieked out the truths of 1912.  Thunder in the air.  An odor rose from the fence-boards, as when you open a photo album that has got so old that no one can identify the people any longer.
      I carried her back inside the chicken netting and let her go.  All of a sudden she came back to life, she knew who she was, and ran off according to the rules.  Hen yards are thick with taboos.  But the earth all around is full of affection and tenacity.  A low stone wall half overgrown with leaves.  When dusk begins to fall the stones are faintly luminous with the hundred-year-old warmth from the hands that built it.
      It's been a hard winter, but summer is here and the fields want us to walk upright.  Every man unimpeded, but careful, as when you stand up in a small boat.  I remember a day in Africa: on the banks of the Chari, there were many boats, an atmosphere positively friendly, the men almost blue-black in color with three parallel scars on each cheek (meaning the Sara tribe).  I am welcomed on a boat -- it's a canoe hollowed from a dark tree.  The canoe is incredibly wobbly, even when you sit on your heels.  A balancing act.  If you have the heart on the left side you have to lean a bit to the right, nothing in the pockets, no big arm movements, please, all rhetoric has to be left behind.  Precisely: rhetoric is impossible here.  The canoe glides out over the water.

 Tomas Tranströmer, Selected Poems: 1954-1986. 1987.  Translators: Robert Bly, Robert Fulton, Robert Bly.


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