Night and the House
–Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen
Night reunites the house and its silence
From the foundations up
To the still flower
Only the ticking of time’s clock is heard
Night reunites the house and its destiny
Now nothing is scattered nothing divided
Everything watches like the vigilant cypress
Emptiness walks in its living spaces
Death does not come from outside. Death is within.
Born-grows together with us.
Goes with us to Kindergarten and school.
Learns with us to read and count.
Goes sledging with us, and to the pictures.
Seeks with us the meaning of life.
Tries to make sense with us of Einstein and Wiener
Makes with us our first sexual contacts.
Marries, bears children, quarrels, makes up.
Separates, or perhaps not, with us.
Goes to work, goes to the doctor, goes camping,
to the convalescent home and the sanatorium. Grows old,
sees children married, retired,
looks after grandchildren, grows ill, dies
with us. Let us not fear, then. Our death
will not outlive us.
Life is a house in ruins. And we mean to fix it up
and make it snug. With our hands we knock it into shape
to the very top. Till beneath this we fasten a roofbeam
that will watch the coming and going of our skyless life,
two crooked segments. They are fitted together,
timbers in concord. Smooth beams, and wide.
Two in touch. That’s the craft we nurture in folding
doubled flesh on a frame. Conjoining the smooth couplings
that sometimes arch into one. Aslant above a cold world,
hollow wood wafting passion. Then stock still for a time.
And how clear cut the roof, creaking love at times,
as it chides the worm to keep off and await its turn.
When we don’t have the fatherland that we have
Lost by silence and by resignation
Even the voice of the sea renders itself exile
And the light that surrounds us is like a lattice
Quando a pátria que temos não a temos
Perdida por silêncio e por renúncia
Até a voz do mar se torna exílio
E a luz que nos rodeia é como grades
A better patriotism…
War is no longer declared,
only continued. The monstrous
has become everyday. The hero
stays away from battle. The weak
have gone to the front.
The uniform of the day is patience,
its medal the pitiful star of hope above the heart.
The medal is awarded
when nothing more happens,
when the artillery falls silent,
when the enemy has grown invisible
and the shadow of eternal armament
covers the sky.
It is awarded
for desertion of the flag,
for bravery in the face of friends,
for the betrayal of unworthy secrets
and the disregard
of every command.
–Rainer Maria Rilke
Slowly the west reaches for clothes of new colors
which it passes to a row of ancient trees.
You look, and soon these two worlds both leave you,
one part climbs toward heaven, one sinks to earth,
leaving you, not really belonging to either,
not so hopelessly dark as that house that is silent,
not so unswervingly given to the eternal as that thing
that turns to a star each night and climbs –
leaving you (it is impossible to untangle the threads)
your own life, timid and standing high and growing,
so that, sometimes blocked in, sometimes reaching out,
one moment your life is a stone in you, and the next, a star.
Evenings on your face
you’d place a bird
And you were no one but
The dead bird
With glass button-eyes
Naked masked face
of a dead bird
And your glass pearls
on the blood of your hands
Before them you danced
As they’d taught you
As they’d left you
I loved you
Dolled up humble half-dead
Prostitute with glass beads
Le soir sur ton visage
Tu mettais un oiseau
les ailes déployées
Et tu n’étais personne
que l’oiseau mort
aux yeux de verre
Nue la face masquée
D’un oiseau mort
Et des perles de verre
Sur le sang de tes mains
Tu dansais devant eux
Comme ils t’avaient appris
Comme ils t’avaient laissée
Parée humble demi-morte
Prostituée aux yeux de verre
Thinking of Elin.
On Foot I Had to Walk Through the Solar Systems
I had to walk through the solar systems,
before I found the first thread of my red dress,
Already, I sense myself.
Somewhere in space hangs my heart,
sparks fly from it, shaking the air,
to other reckless hearts.
fick jag gå genom solsystemen,
innan jag fann den första tråden av min röda dräkt.
Jag anar ren mig själv.
Någonstädes i rymden hänger mitt hjärta,
gnistor strömma ifrån det, skakande luften,
till andra måttlösa hjärtan.