Exerpts from my translation into English of Lennart Sjögren’s latest poem Kalla mig Noa , Stockholm: Albert Bonniers förlag, 2014.Call me Noah II

We saw water fowls
they lived on prey found in the water
but land birds were gone
where might they land
where might they build their nests:
the shimmering birds
the peacocks with their shrill cries
that gilded our feasts
the pigeons in the squares
the wedding birds
birds wild in the forests.

No land was found under their feet
more doomed to death they were
than we.

The day Shem was lowered in the flood:
how death reached him through the water’s poison.

Did I then hear the neighing of death’s horses?
No, I heard nothing
I saw nothing
only the sucking water
and I asked as fathers always ask
why didn’t his death become mine?

And long afterwards
when the flood had receded
and we had built the new city
the day when Ham’s heart stopped
in the field where he was digging
he who should have worn
the heritage Shem wasn’t allowed to receive.

But Japheth fell in the battle
and was celebrated as a hero.
I know, I know it as well
as that I’m still alive.
But then my happiness was already gone
and the buzz from the heroes was
like the buzz from flies
when they leave their cadaver.
In my dream I speak to him
I see his eyes clearly
then I hardly know if the flood ever existed
and the war in which he fell
the glance from his eye is as close to me
as the day he was born.

She who gave me children I remember
her that I loved the most
when we lay together
it was as if a god was close
as happens in the souls of animals.
It was the bird’s nest and a wild summit
that was older than anything in the city and in the water
it was the greatest summit.

From the depth of the bottom the dead again rose toward the surface
fishes swam
among the walls of the city.

I, Noah
I saw this
I was saved from death.

And now I report
what the flood craved
four of the boats I knew foundered
besides several rafts
and other matter of less buoyancy.

The rain was constantly above us
the stars were invisible, the wind stagnated
we didn’t know where to steer our rudders.
And the day the storm arose
some boats were thrown against cliffs and crushed
rafts built from reed and other stuff
couldn’t bear any longer.

Everywhere the flood drank
those who still ought to be saved
it drank like one that has long gone without water
drinks his fill from a well.

How the fight started
the day we met a raft.

We had taken on board too heavy cargo
and couldn’t take any more
the dry timbre sucked in water
slowly the railing sank toward the surface 
storm gathered, the waves sought us.
A raft approached with three on board
hungrier than we
and closer to death
they shouted to us, hoping to be saved
we pushed away.

Then we were paralyzed by fear
we lived in order to live.

With calculation I hit against the knuckles of the woman
that grabbed our railing
I crushed them
I hit them rashly
we hit them all, we saved our lives
we sentenced them to death.
The waves came to our help
the blood was washed away.

We closed our eyes, we kept silent
we tried to embrace our loneliness to console ourselves
but apart from the consolation that slaughter gives
there was none to get.
I was there, my wife was there
the woman I had loved the longest
Japheth who was still alive then was there
a servant was there
that’s how we saved our lives.

One moment we saw the arms, how they waved
one moment we saw the heads
one moment they shouted curses at us
then the greater throat of the water took over.

I again shut my eyes
I turned away
as I’m used to do.
Then came the nights
there came waking nights
then I heard the curses anew
I turned away, defended myself.
Sooner or later sleep arrives
both to him who curses
and the cursed.

I still remember
how I hit and hit.

How much haven’t I since then
burnt and ravaged
when the wars again grew
from the green strand that we reached
when the time of the flood had ended,
but the hands of the woman
that I sent down to the bottom of the rain
seek me more than anything else.

Perhaps it’s to a wedding of hatred
deeper than the land were the dead grieve
that she invites me
and I cannot hesitate.

How many cities existed no longer
other than as cities of the rain and the dead
furthest down.

Water there was, endlessly it surrounded us
it tempted us to drink death.
The good god of water we had prayed to earlier
when drought burnt our acres
turned into an evil god that sought our lives.

We kept silent, we shouted, kept silent again
we turned inward, toward ourselves
there the rooms were empty too.

And I who was there and I who saw
I can’t see myself.
You ask who I am
you ask far too hard questions.

I who am Noah, I lived a time
for a human being
I lived uncommonly long
I don’t know who I am.

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