Friday, August 10, 2007

Niels Hav


You can spend an entire life
in the company of words
not ever finding
the right one.

Just like a wretched fish
wrapped in Hungarian newspapers.
For one thing it is dead,
for another it doesn't understand

Visit from My Father

My dead Father comes to visit
and sits down in his chair again, the one I got.
"Well, Niels!" he says.
He is brown and strong, his hair shines like black
Once he moved other people's gravestones around
using a steel rod and a wheelbarrow, I helped him.
Now he's moved his own
by himself. "How's it going?" he says.
I tell him all of it,
my plans, all the unsuccessful attempts.
On my bulletin board hang seventeen bills.
"Throw them away,"
he says, "they'll come back again!"
He laughs.
"For many years I was hard on myself,"
he says, "I lie awake mulling
to become a decent person.
That's important!"

I offer him a cigarette,
but he has stopped smoking now.
Outside the sun sets fire to the roofs and chimneys,
the garbagemen make noise and yell to each other
on the street. My father gets up,
goes to the window and looks down at them.
"They are busy," he says, "that's good.
Do something!"

-Translated by P. K. Brask & Patrick Friesen

Niels Hav is a Danish poet and short story writer living in Copenhagen with his wife, concert pianist Christina Bjørkøe. His new collection of poetry We Are Here is published by Book Thug, Toronto (, and a selection of his poetry from the early years, God's Blue Morris, was published in Canada in 1992. He is the author of five collections of poetry and three of short fiction.