The Blindworm, a translation of Ingela Strandberg’s poem Kopparödlan by Göran Malmqvist

photo: Torbjörn Strandberg

In the little town that splashes
in the sea I spent the nights outside
or in the car

The waves murmured

All hotel rooms
were booked up

I stayed nowhere

The wood nymph taught me
to hide the black
hole in my back
where all depth is stored

The tarpaper roof
on the outhouse is
my ontological knife
On it I dance
That roof
saw me as a child it sees me now
as I squat
before the blindworm
that will teach me to play dead

Proud I carried the child
within me through the crowd
but was pierced by pity
Poor and turned out
I saw the moon reach all the way down
to the swell by Subbe lighthouse
Happy I caught
a splinter of eternity
and put it under my sweater
Then we shone on cats
and masturbators who watched over
the heart’s rhythm in their cramped cellar-vaults

The wood nymph taught me
to fall gently so that no lies
might catch the eyes of the villages

Taught me to sow
all bare spots in order to hide
the difficult love

You must understand
says the maple that you don’t
own the transgression
The others won’t allow it

They came towards me I was defenseless
In order to appease I began to
hang up curtains and sew
clothes for the children the woods stopped
visiting me the lakes the lakes
turned away I stood by the crossing
when they closed it there was much
blood in the butcher’s car when
we pulled out from there

I stand by a sea of polished brass
Ego is a myth 
Wheat is true

A mouse
runs into the field
and disappears

It’s very easy to disappear

I fled through the catacombs
of the villages the child lay
between my breasts and the frost
We walked in the outskirts
I loved the dead grass
that bent down before us as we came

Every night
a few of us go out
and scratch the paintwork
We never meet but
we know that we have a mission

The wood nymph taught me the body’s
most beautiful part is the neck
The transition or the distance
from head to spine

Where the cutting edge is applied

Where loneliness lives

In the little town that splashes
in the water there is a brick-red house
there I learnt the word humanist
That was what I wanted to become
already that time
when I saw my father cry leaning
over the trolley that would take us
to Ullared via the wild strawberry road

On the cell level
you can see all the way
to the first light

I watch a piece of meat
twisting over the fire

It kept together a belly
a back a head a leap

in darkly jingling grass
on a slope like freedom

Caught starved smothered split

By the blade
it called to mind when I
stood on the road and watched
the transport pass by

I like the ditches
my loyal companions
Like their muddy
water their hidden
undercurrents and their shallow
suggestions for survival

The wood nymph taught me
to milk
we sat out in the fields
our foreheads pressed against the bulging flesh
while the most delightful milk
moistened our skin glossy
We stole both thirst and milk
Then rinsed our vessels in
flowing water
and laughing withdrew
under the bark

I like the old garage
in the forest and the memory of the snow
packing the walls the memory
of the cheering in my throat of the firs and the blood
Yes even his wife who was expecting
but most of all of my seventeen
years and my utter lack of shame

In the little town that splashes
in the sea there was a little room
for enlightenment and refinement

There I weighed time

When I walked home across the square
the town was empty
A can without content
At nights the stars
howled like wolves
in a place from where 
a man appeared alone
and in spanking new clothes forged
by the eons’smiths

How I longed to go there

I come back in from a game I find
everything waiting for me see that it’s
evening now and that things will slip into dusk
the night go out carrying the cows on its back
and I lay myself down on the cool gravel
and grow cold

My long black coat
slimmed at the waist
in the pockets the ringing of bells and Vallejo
There is an empty space
where the particles rove about
The coat flaps around my calves
like a fish that wants to break
into the water

The farther out we drifted
the wilder the gleam of the lighthouse

As I squat
before the blindworm
that will teach me to be dead

Taking the lake home with me 
The broad swaths of the water
taking them with me deep into sleep
The head covered by darkness
Now I’m no longer visible

From the animal factories cars leave
early in the mornings 
blood urine screams
seep out of the vehicles soaking
the tracks until they run past
the blind dawn watchman

The scythe rests against a sound
The thin angry point
is hidden in a fold of skin

It’s a warm day
The moon white and fallen


The moon
shines above the animal factories
The smoke rises straight up
while pale Poles share
the nightshifts with the cows

The hard stones of the track’s embankment
The motor-coach that sang us closer
to you nothingness and the warmth from
the rail-car into my synapses
and a humiliating I feel
toilet-paper that blew out
from underneath and whirled around us
the sleepers the wild strawberries happily as
if you were celebrating something

My parents
never got a word
from either the church
or the local community centre

They were such as 
left empty rows behind them

The unborn
hang in clusters
above the mossy water
They resemble great gatherings
of swarming bees
anxious to get away

The wood nymph taught me
to love the naked nights

The mist seizes me by the throat
the moss infiltrates 
the body but all the invisible
that looks at me laughingly whatever
it is I thrive on it

The night air touches me through the window
sugar-sweet and  raw it lures me to come out
outside is my home I run run over
wide open fields run farther in and out
outside is my home and I reach up
until the stars burn 

calls the black stallion
in the brook


The mane spreads
The hoof hairs float

I loosen his bridle

As I squat
before the blindworm
that will teach me to leave
the head alone

An old cow stands looking at me
on the shore quiet in Einstein’s circle

The dead sit in another boat

I don’t want to write the word love
I don’t want to I don’t want to I don’t want to

But I must

When death’s mist dissolves
soul after soul is forced down the throats
The flesh calls them in
Thea flesh will be stuffed full
The flesh owns them at once
And they pass the abysses
At first they stick to you nothingness

but then fall fall fall

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