Extracts from my translation into English of Kjell Espmark’s poetry collection Den inre rymden, Norstedts, 2014

The Inner Space I

It’s hazy, like the dawn of time.
Across the fjord a freezing text rushes,
ripple upon ripple.
What might be a heron
tests its wings and takes flight. The promise
of leaves in the crowns of the trees is fulfilled.
And I rise slowly
from the shrunken man on the bench.
It’s time to invent the world.

Like when you clambered out of the pool
on treacherous knees one Friday,
testing the tiles with your foot
and sniggering with what remained of your lips
you shuffle now out of Mother Sea
carefully up among the seacliffs,
an armoured shark that breathes, amazed,
and stretches itself into hands and feet.
You may join in a new attempt
to realize the grand scheme.
Your head is full of memories
of all that is yet to happen.

I’m back in Leukas
and stand by the entrance to the Underworld,
a cleft hidden by thorny shrubs.
The footprints that took me here remain in the sand!
But this time I see something other
than the starting point for a second life.
It is here the Western world is said to begin.
The sea which is but a dazzling sun
hides the ships on their way through the centuries.
The darkness streaming out of the entrance to Hades
presses forth a philosophy.
And the crag Sappho shall throw herself off
elicits the vertigo in her poems.

When we walk up through the brushwood 
along what will be known as Ström’s watery vale
to find a height for our village
our steps still retain
our first steps across the savanna.

My clan memory reveals a touch of myth.
In that memory, the wife is standing at the strait, 
with the king’s pardon in her hand.
Her feet bleeding from the barefoot walk
from Stockholm all the way to Red Isle.
Her love believes it has saved her husband
from block and wheel.
But no boat is to be found on her shore,
everybody wanted to get across to see
how he fares who paid tribute to a losing king.
And so she has to stand on this side
and watch from afar her husband’s head fall.
It’s here the story seems improved 
in order to incise the helplessness of love
for grey cottages and consumptive youngsters 
and impress on them
the language of clenched teeth.

Three hundred years I have searched for proof.
The wife is still screaming in the laundry hut,
alone with the fire. The door is locked
by a crossbar─put there on purpose
or dropped in place by chance?
The farmer, firelight still in his beard,
was acquitted by the court.
But the suspicion remains. As prosecutor
I zealously search through later years
for the descendent the farmer is hiding in.
I wait for you to make a wrong move
that reveals his guilt.

In an outhouse on Listarum Slopes
with chisel and hammer Jakob Roos
stands and carves out an Assyrian lion.
His skill runs through two generations 
to me as I sculpt my text.
The vault of heaven in Komstad marble
bears traces of his chisel.
The blackbird’s song is sensually carved
and surrounded by a billowing foliage of stone.

I have pondered over the great comet
that remained so long in the sky last year.
Was it the comet that stole little Märit away?
It can’t very well have been a punishment,
since I’ve nothing to regret.
And every night I read in the brown book
that contains all human knowledge.
In that way I fulfill my duty to prepare
my unborn grandchildren who will take over
in the real university of life.
One day, when I leave my farmer’s body
and float away above the Hotag montains
neither sins nor negligence ought to weigh heavily.
I only fear that the last day
may not be allowed to call itself Justice.

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