Friday, November 01, 2019

swam faster than time

The forgotten captain

We have many shadows. I was on the way home
in the September night when Y
broke out of his grave after forty years
and kept me company.

At first he was quite empty, a mere name,
but his thoughts swam
faster than time
and caught up with us.

I set his eyes to my eyes
and saw the war's ocean.
The last boat he commanded
grew forth under us.

Out and back crept the Atlantic Convoy ships
those that would survive
and those that had the Mark
(invisible to all)

while the sleepless days and nights succeeded
but never him --
the float-vest sat under the oilskin.
He never came home.

It was an intern's weeping that bled him
in a hospital in Cardiff.
He could finally lay himself down
and be transformed into horizon.

Goodbye No. 11 Convoy! Goodbye 1940!
Here ends world history.
The bomber hung overhead.
The heather bloomed.

A photo from the start of the century shows a beach.
There stand six clothed boys.
They have sailing boats in their arms.
What serious expressions!

Boats that became life and death for some of them.
And to write of the dead
is a game too, that grows heavy
with what is to come.


The opening poem in Tomas Tranströmer's 1989 collection For Living And Dead (För levande och döda), poorly translated with a bit of help from Google Translate and probably some recollection of Robin Fulton's rendering.

I've left in my mistakes. The intern's weeping is really internal weeping. No. 11 is really 11-knot.

I passed through Västerås in the summer, an unassuming working town. I would have paid it more attention if I'd known that Tranströmer lived here from 1965 onwards.

In fact it's a town with a lot of history.

Back in 1878 it was where that bright boy from Dalarna Erik Axel Karlfeldt attended the school now known as the Rudbeckianska Gymnasiet. (A then-separate part of today's school had been founded, back in the seventeenth century, by Bishop Rudbeck, father of the eccentric scientist Olaf Rudbeck, who keeps finding his way into my posts!

Labels: , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home

Powered by Blogger