from "The Inner Space"
We've camped by the tarn, father and I.
The sky is white, no help with a script.
Nothing to be heard but nervous midges,
and the crackle and hiss of the fire
as father roasts char in grease-paper.
This mountain silence
takes in our years of silence and distance –
years he thinks have been put in brackets.
His hands fumble through lack of language –
try to hit upon words that mend
what never could be mended.
We are dark in the white night
as if we were film negatives.
He smiles vaguely handing me the coffee.
But his grey-blue eyes are helpless.
* * *
In February 1945
the world collapses for a second time.
The Russians reach Auschwitz
and a realm of the dead
opens in the middle of Europe.
Starved souls stream from the gloom,
more eyes than body.
One of them, the Jewish lad Benjamin,
is suddenly there in my boy's room,
still in his striped rags,
fingering my model plane
and trying out the chair at the birchwood desk
with its maps of the battle-fields.
Hearing my voice he jumps up
ready as always for the guards' fists.
He shares my room for several years –
the second tooth-brush in the glass.
What I write in those years
looks for some pattern to make him clear.
* * *
We walk among the trees on Runmarö.
Tomas, at work on Baltics,
steps in the ”high style.” He has let me read
and feel how the Baltic wind
bears voices with holes
scissored out by the censor.
And how what will happen is already here
but won't speak out.
The pine needles are a coded text
and the clouds shift, loth to be read.
Italics specify: it's aphasia.
But that´s a muteness that can be overcome.
As when a Russian composer
after a stroke can't make sense of a text
yet is able to write music to it.
That simile knows a chapter-to-come!
As if Tomas had heard how a door
bangs shut in a later year
but delivers its echo already now.
The jellyfish squelching at the water's edge
glistens with its perilous message.
* * *
Sudden cracks appear between the words
in Wan Xia's tactful poem about my death.
And the cherry-blossom swirls away
turned to snow in the whirlwind
round the words that at last remain –
"a capricious suicide." I, so shaken
by the massacre on Tiananman Square
that life seems no longer possible
crouch by the track in the snowstorm.
And what language can´t say is said.
As the engine headlamps fill the world
I throw myself out into the light.
My cry which should have been stifled by the snow
echoes away beyond the borders.
* * *
The May night brightens.
The moon hangs in the apple-tree.
By the low wall extinct
wild tulips make a yellow attempt.
The damp grass breaks the light
into specks of red, violet and green,
with dark footprints that hesitated –
the blackbird seems to have discovered Mozart.
We stand there shone-through, silenced.
The wall's experienced stones
and the old red side-building
are a hand opened to the moment.
* * *
I feel how you think in me – a thrill
like moonlight speeding to me on water.
I reply with some definitions:
Your face is like a trembling reflection
in a bowl of water.
I want to carry it through the years
My thoughts of you are weightless.
They rotate and glimmer like specks of dust
in the strip of morning sun through the window.
In gratitude for their rustic supper
friendly gods let us be two trees
growing old with our crowns entwined.
Swedish poet and Nobel Prize judge, KJELL ESPMARK, is an internationally renowned poet and novelist, the author of thirteen volumes of poetry which have been translated into multiple languages. His many prizes include the Bellman Prize for poetry and the Schuck Prize for literary criticism, the Kellgren Prize, the Great Prize of “The Nine,” and the Tranströmer Prize. He has been a member of the Nobel Committee and served as chairman from 1988-2004.