We are surrounded by the white noise of words these days.
As much as I hear, there is more to be heard.
As much as I read, there is more to be read.
So to stumble upon a poem that you can see, and feel, and offer an unconditional home in your soul is like finding an enduring, if challenging, friendship on life’s journey.
Stories, books, they leave only fading impressions as time passes; maybe the odd leitmotif lodges itself in your consciousness. You might re-read a book to remind yourself of the story, and of yourself.
But a poem that resonates is an instant passion. Like an arrow through your heart, or ‘an ever-fixed mark’, to quote Shakespeare. Here’s one such from the Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer who many may never have heard of before yesterday (including me) when he won the Nobel Prize for literature.
A google around finds his work described as that which ‘barrels into the void’, a phrase I find profoundly reassuring. That his poetry has this quality doesn’t seem a surprise when you learn he was a psychologist working in prisons for much of his professional life.
Whatever, he’s got my attention alright.
This, from ’20 Poems’ by Tomas Tranströmer, translated by Robert Bly, Seventies Press (1970)
After A Death
Once there was a shock
that left behind a long, shimmering comet tail.
It keeps us inside. It makes the TV pictures snowy.
It settles in cold drops on the telephone wires.
One can still go slowly on skis in the winter sun
through brush where a few leaves hang on.
They resemble pages torn from old telephone directories.
Names swallowed by the cold.
It is still beautiful to feel the heart beat
but often the shadow seems more real than the body.
The samurai looks insignificant
beside his armour of black dragon scales.