For Don Van Vliet
The new isn't all these
cars from nowhere
or cornflower blue chairs in the kitchen
The new is that no
Outside again we fall
outside and the trees being
so late this year
What is it you want?
A phobia a psychosis a sledge
a voice howling in the garbage chute
Till Don Van Vliet
Det nya är inte alla dessa
bilar från ingenstans
eller kornblå stolar i köket
Det nya är att ingen
Utanför igen man faller
utanför och träden som är
så sena i år
Vad är det du vill?
En fobi en psykos en slägga,
en röst som ylar i sopnedkastet
Tomas Ekström lives in rural southern Sweden. He is a founder of the literary magazine Serum and the author of two collections of poetry. The first of them was translated into Spanish and published by Ed. Imaginarias in Montevideo.
Lars Palm translated, and provided the bio. The poem is dedicated to Don
van Vliet -- a musician more widely known as Captain Beefheart.
If it hadn’t been for that morning in autumn
The incandescent breath of the decapitated city
The silence fallen like a burgundy curtain
We would have gone on betting on the long shot
In imagined clashes
In imaginary geographies
Staring at our shadows stretching to the absurd
In deceitful mirrors.
The strong are alone
The strong are forlorn
And so vulnerable in the naïveté to push their dreams
Even they could still follow them with their sight.
From above everything appears the same:
The dead with the dead
The living with their vanity.
Translated by Julian Semilian
One day we’ll take things as they come.
We’ll see our coil of waterly lines.
I’ll be up on a blue stone
taking the earth’s measure with my palm.
Creation is only unbound pride.
punishment comes from the ancients
and from seekers of solitude
with lizards on their shoulders.
I’ll pour my soul into bottles and I will bury them
though disbelieving the sea’s saving power
or whether any bottle-readers remain.
Subtle traces of truth
will float like ads for Kodak
in the supersonic orange.
I’ll up on a stone
counting the disappeared
like coins in a teacup storm.
One day we’ll pick up our things
from the place cursed by the ancients
so that we’ll breathe the air with their molecules with –
all their here and there
the same flight geometry –
ash lines on a hot stone.
Translated by Andrei Codrescu
Poetry, a blue snake,
connects person to person,
breaking through shop windows,
around those who flee
from the streets into houses.
Poetry, a blue snake, binds hands
and learns how to make proclamations
in the service of power.
But wait, don't throw the mantle of clouds
off our shoulders.
in the beginning was the word,
at the end, the word distorted.
Eventually there will only remain
poetry, a blue snake, insinuating itself
into our full cup of tears.
Translated by Isaiah Sheffer with the poet
HOW I AM
Once upon a time I knew how I was doing.
Now I find out from day to day how I am:
“Well, thank you, and you?”
Distantly related to all the black female cashiers,
to all the gymnasts from Chinatown,
to all the code numbers, card numbers, Pin and Pam numbers –
I push a button again, I leave jokes on the answering machines,
touched by their soft voice which asks me to stay on hold a little longer
because my call is important to them,
I am the most important person in the world and I stay on hold
until I fall asleep with my hand on the buttons,
remembering how in childhood I played nurse
among the whispers of the women in the kitchen
who were boiling plum jam and telling stories about our sinful fathers,
those wonderful men who came home late with hot loaves of bread.
I am definitely the most important, buried under bills, receipts,
life and death insurance policies and offers of vacations on exotic islands.
I listed to my heartbeats – Pin, Pin – in the howl of the ambulances,
fire trucks, policecars, vehicles in which I would run away
into the wide and good world
and whatever I end up doing:
“I am well. Nice to have met me.”
Translated by Isaiah Sheffer with the poet
Carmen Firan, born in Romania, is a poet, a fiction writer, and a journalist. She has published eleven books of poetry, as well as several novels, books of essays and short stories, plays and film scripts. She has lived in New York City since 2000. Her writings appear in translation in many literary magazines and in various anthologies in France, Israel, Sweden, Germany, Ireland, Canada, UK, and the USA. Her recent books and publications in the USA include: The Second Life (Columbia University Press), The Farce (Spuyten Duyvil Press), and In The Most Beautiful Life (Umbrage Editions).