Tomas Tranströmer trans. by Patty Crane
Waking up is a parachute jump from the dream.
Free from the suffocating vortex,
the traveler sinks toward morning’s green zone.
Things flare upward. He senses—from the quivering skylark’s
perspective—the powerful tree root system’s
subterranean swaying lamps. But above ground,
the greenery—in a tropical flood—stands
with uplifted arms, listening
to the rhythm of an invisible pump. And he
sinks toward summer, lowering down
into its glaring crater, down
through shafts of green-dampened ages
quaking under the turbine of sun. Then
this vertical journey through the moment ends, and the wings spread
into the osprey’s repose over the flowing waters.
The Bronze Age horn’s
hovers over the infinite.
In the day’s first hours, consciousness can take hold of the world
like a hand clutching a sun-warmed stone.
The traveler’s standing under the tree.
After hurtling through death’s vortex,
will a great light unfurl over his head?
Not an earthquake but a sky-quake. Turner could’ve painted it, lashed down. A lonely glove just whirled past, a few miles away from its hand. I’m going to head upwind to that house over there on the other side of the field. I flap into the hurricane. I’m being x-rayed, the skeleton submits its resignation. My panic grows as I cross, I’m foundering, I’m foundering and drowning on dry land! How heavy it all is, everything I suddenly must lug along, how heavy for the butterfly to tow a barge! Arrived at last. A final wrestling with the door. And now inside. And now inside. Behind the large pane of glass. What a strange and magnificent invention glass is—to be close without being affected . . . Outside, a horde of transparent sprinters races giant-sized across the lava field. But I’m no longer flapping. I’m sitting behind the glass, still, my own portrait.
Read Tomas Tranströmer’s “Prelude,” “At the Work’s Edges,” “The Name,” “Start of a Late Autumn Night’s Novel,” “Answer to Letters,” and “Icelandic Hurricane,” all translated by Patty Crane, in the print edition of The Arkansas International 6.
Tomas Tranströmer (1931–2015) was a Swedish writer, poet and translator, whose poetry has been translated into over sixty languages. Acclaimed as one of the most important European writers since World War II, he was awarded the 2011 Nobel Prize in Literature.
Patty Crane’s translations of Tomas Tranströmer’s poetry have appeared in such journals as American Poetry Review, Blackbird, PEN Poetry Series, Poetry Daily, Trafika Europe, and The New York Times. Bright Scythe, a bilingual selection of her translations, was published by Sarabande in 2015.