Thursday, February 05, 2009

Two Poems

By Pia Tafdrup
(my tr.)

The west-facing panes of the stable
gather the sun’s rays
one mild evening
of swallows.
Round and round they chase
in a ring
about the tree in the middle of the courtyard.
Round and round,
my father
holds my head tightly
with both hands, no answer,
forces me
to stare in
at the stone wing’s sharply illuminated windows.
A needle pricks a hole,
the swallows cry white.
– “Look!”
says my father.
– “Look, the sun!”
It isn’t the courtyard
going up in flames but me
being dazzled by the light in the glass.
Suddenly I’m certain:
My father doesn’t know
what he’s doing.
Against the wheel ―
my head rests,
the horses
have broken loose.
Long-legged flight
towards a black horizon.


My father doesn’t remember how well-read
he is.
In his bookcase I spot
Rilke’s Briefe an einen jungen Dichter.
Like the first peal of a heavily
floating bell
one bronze-still morning,
Germany presents itself...
I wanted to visit the girl who was my pen friend
in spite of protests.
My mother couldn’t bear
the sound
of the German language ―
she heard Hitler
in every word.
During the war like my mother my father was
to flee to Sweden,
but on his shelves in the bookcase
there were German books.
DA stieg ein Baum. O reine √úbersteigung!
O Orpheus singt! O hoher Baum im Ohr!

− Remember,
it doesn’t matter which family you visit,
said my mother
and sleepless sent
her sixteen year old daughter away,
they all – in different ways
took part in the war.
I understood her pain,
but wanted to overcome it.
In “my” family, with Rosi,
pretty Rosi,
needles could not be used.
Rosi’s father
couldn't bear the sight
of needles ―
he saw Hitler
in every needle.
Rosi’s father had experienced something during the war
that could not be talked about, not even
in his own house
− was the first thing the women told me.
If I wanted to sew
I would have to go somewhere else
like Rosi, her mother and old Oma.
− My father knows something about needles
women don’t know,
whispered Rosi one evening
on the way home from the discotheque,
where she
and her at least as pretty Gerhard,
on the dance floor
under the brilliance
of the reflecting glass globe
were chosen as couple of the evening,
without so much as a button popping...
DA stieg ein Baum,
wanted to dance round and round,
just be allowed
to live,
but Rosi’s father had experienced something
to do with needles that burned
and stuck into Rosi,
something that long after the war was over
still kept her father blindingly awake.

(from Tarkovskijs heste [Tarkovsky's Horses]
Gyldendal, 2006)
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