2023-05-07: solitude (tranströmer)

coming back to the rattle bag (which i mentioned earlier): i finished it a while back, plowing through the bog of dull, sing-songy poems. every so often, there was an incredible one. i've always loved tranströmer, but this one stopped me.



Right here I was nearly killed one night in February.
My car slewed on the ice, sideways,
into the other lane. The oncoming cars—
their headlights—came nearer.

My name, my daughters, my job
slipped free and fell behind silently,
farther and farther back. I was anonymous,
like a schoolboy in a lot surrounded by enemies.

The approaching traffic had powerful lights.
They shone on my while I turned and turned
the wheel in a transparent fear that moved like eggwhite.
The seconds lengthened out—making more room—
they grew long as hospital buildings.

It felt as if you could just take it easy
and loaf a bit
before the smash came.

Then firm land appeared: a helping sandgrain
or marvellous gust of wind. The car took hold
and fish-tailed back across the road.
A signpost shot up, snapped off—a ringing sound—
tossed into the dark.

Came all quiet. I sat there in my seatbelt
and watched someone tramp through the blowing snow
to see what became of me.


I have been walking a while
on the frozen Swedish fields
and have seen no one.

In other parts of the world
people are born, live and die
in a constant human crush.

To be visible all the time—to live
in a swarm of eyes— surely that leaves its mark on the face.
Features overlaid with clay.

The low voices rise and fall
as they divide up
heaven, shadows, grains of sand.

I have to be by myself
ten minutes every morning,
ten minutes every night,
—and nothing to be done!

We all line up to ask each other for help.



Tomas Tranströmer
From the Swedish (tr. Robert Bly)