Out in the Open
translated by Robin Robertson
Late autumn labyrinth.
A discarded bottle lies at the entrance to the wood.
Walk in. The forest in this season is a silent palace of abandoned rooms.
Only a few, precise sounds: as if someone were lifting twigs with tweezers;
as if, inside each tree-trunk, a hinge was creaking quietly.
Frost has breathed on the mushrooms and they’ve shrivelled up;
they are like the personal effects of the disappeared.
It is almost dusk. You need to leave now,
find your landmarks again: the rusted implements out in the field
and the house on the other side of the lake, red-brown
and square and solid as a stock-cube.
A letter from America set me off, drove me out
on a white night in June through the empty suburban streets
among built blocks, cool as blueprints, too new to have memories.
The letter in my pocket. My unquiet raging stride a kind of prayer.
Where you are now, evil and good really do have faces.
Here, it’s mostly a struggle between roots, numbers, transitions of light.
Those that run messages for death don’t shy from daylight.
They govern from glass offices. They swell in the sun.
They lean over their desks and look at you askance.
Far away from that, I find myself in front of one of the new buildings.
Many windows merging into one window.
The light of the night sky and the swaying of the trees are caught there:
in this still mirror-lake, up-ended in the summer night.
Violence seems unreal
for a while.
The sun is scorching. The plane comes in low,
throwing a shadow in the shape of a giant cross, rushing over the ground.
A man crouches over something in the field.
The shadow reaches him.
For a split-second he is in the middle of the cross.
I have seen the cross that hangs from cool church arches.
Sometimes it seems like a snapshot
Tomas Tranströmer was born in Stockholm in 1931. He is Scandinavia’s preeminent poet.
Robin Robertson is from the north-east coast of Scotland. He has won a number of awards for his poetry, including all three Forward Prizes and the E.M. Forster Award. His fourth collection, The Wrecking Light, will be published in the UK in early 2010.
Out in the Openfirst appeared in The Deleted World: versions of Tomas Tranströmer (Enitharmon Press, 2006).