Wednesday, February 1, 2012

TOMAS TRANSTRÖMER

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TOMAS TRANSTRÖMER
translation by Patty Crane

Sorrow Gondola No. 2

I
Two old men, father- and son-in-law, Liszt and Wagner, are staying by the Grand Canal
together with the restless woman who is married to King Midas,
he who changes everything he touches to Wagner.
The ocean’s green cold pushes up through the palazzo floors.
Wagner is marked, his famous Punchinello profile looks more tired than before,
his face a white flag.
The gondola is heavy-laden with their lives, two round trips and a one-way.

II
A window in the palazzo flies open and everyone grimaces in the sudden draft.
Outside on the water the trash gondola appears, paddled by two one-oared bandits.
Liszt has written down some chords so heavy, they ought to be sent off
to the mineralogical institute in Padua for analysis.
Meteorites!
Too heavy to rest, they can only sink and sink straight through the future all the way down
to the Brownshirt years.
The gondola is heavy-laden with the future’s huddled-up stones.

III
Peep-holes into 1990.

March 25th. Angst for Lithuania.
Dreamt I visited a large hospital.
No personnel. Everyone was a patient.

In the same dream a newborn girl
who spoke in complete sentences.

IV
Beside the son-in-law, who’s a man of the times, Liszt is a moth-eaten grand seigneur.
It’s a disguise.
The deep, that tries on and rejects different masks, has chosen this one just for him—
the deep that wants to enter people without ever showing its face.

V
Abbé Liszt is used to carrying his suitcase himself through sleet and sunshine
and when his time comes to die, there will be no one to meet him at the station.
A mild breeze of gifted cognac carries him away in the midst of a commission.
He always has commissions.
Two thousand letters a year!
The schoolboy who writes his misspelled word a hundred times before he’s allowed to go home.
The gondola is heavy-laden with life, it is simple and black.

VI
Back to 1990.

Dreamt I drove over a hundred miles in vain.
Then everything magnified. Sparrows as big as hens
sang so loud that it briefly struck me deaf.

Dreamt I had drawn piano keys
on my kitchen table. I played on them, mute
The neighbors came over to listen.

VII
The clavier, which kept silent through all of Parsifal (but listened), finally has something to say.
Sighs . . . sospiri . . .
When Liszt plays tonight he holds the sea-pedal pressed down
so the ocean’s green force rises up through the floor and flows together with all the stone in the
building.
Good evening, beautiful deep!
The gondola is heavy-laden with life, it is simple and black.

VIII
Dreamt I was supposed to start school but arrived too late.
Everyone in the room was wearing a white mask.
Whoever the teacher was, no one could say.

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