From the Archives: Solitude (I)
translated by Robin Robertson
I was nearly killed here, one night in February.
My car shivered, and slewed sideways on the ice,
right across into the other lane. The slur of traffic
came at me with their lights.
My name, my girls, my job, all
slipped free and were left behind, smaller and smaller,
further and further away. I was a nobody:
a boy in a playground, suddenly surrounded.
The headlights of the oncoming cars
bore down on me as I wrestled the wheel through a slick
of terror, clear and slippery as egg-white.
The seconds grew and grew – making more room for me –
stretching huge as hospitals.
I almost felt that I could rest
and take a breath
before the crash.
Then something caught: some helpful sand
or a well-timed gust of wind. The car
snapped out of it, swinging back across the road.
A signpost shot up and cracked, with a sharp clang,
spinning away in the darkness.
And it was still. I sat back in my seat-belt
and watched someone tramp through the whirling snow
to see what was left of me.
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.
Solitude (I) first appeared in The Deleted World: versions of Tomas Tranströmer (Enitharmon Press, 2006).