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Tuesday Poem: Tomas Transtromer, Silence

Walk on by, they are buried . . . A cloud shifts across the sun.
Starvation looms over us, a tall edifice shifting in the night
in the bedroom, a dark pit opens - that elevator drop in the stomach.
Flowers in the ditch, celebration and silence. Walk on by, they are buried . . .
Silver cutlery swarms in shoals where the Atlantic is deep and black.
Translation © Kathleen Jones

Gå förbi, de är begravda . . . Ett moln glider över solskivan.
Svälten är en hög byggnad som flyttar sig om natten 
i sovrummet öppnar sig en hisstrummas mörka stav mot innandömena.
Blommor i diket. Fanfar och tystnad. Gå förbi, de är begravda . . .
Bordssilvret överlever i stora stim på stort djup där Atlanten är svart. 
© Tomas Transtromer  Sorgegondolen

I love Transtromer's poetry, it's so stark and deceptively simple. In theory it should be easy to translate, but, word for word, the result often feels crude and facile. All kinds of questions present themselves - What is this poem really about? Hunger? Grief?  W…

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