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Poetic Interlude
Published on October 12, 2011 by Sara Foss

I'd never heard of the Swedish writer Tomas Transtromer until last week, when he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Here's his poem "The Outpost." (For more information about Transtromer, check out this article in Slate.)

 

I’m ordered out to a heap of stones
like a distinguished corpse from the Iron Age.
The others are back in the tent sleeping
stretched out like spokes in a wheel.

In the tent the stove rules: a big snake
that has swallowed a ball of fire and hisses.
But out in the spring night it is silent
among cold stones waiting for day.

Out in the cold I begin to fly
like a shaman, I fly to her body
with its white marks from her bikini -
we were out in the sun. The moss was warm.

I flit over warm moments
but can’t stop for long.
They’re whistling me back through space -
I crawl out from the stones. Here and now.

Mission: to be where I am.
Even in that ridiculous, deadly serious
role – I am the place
Where creation is working itself out.

Daybreak, the sparse tree trunks
are coloured now, the frostbitten
spring flowers form a silent search party
for someone who has vanished in the dark.

But to be where I am. And to wait.
I am anxious, stubborn, confused.
Coming events, they’re here already!
I know it. They’re outside:

a murmuring crowd outside the gate.
They can pass only one by one.
They want in. Why? They’re coming
one by one. I am the turnstile.

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