Tomas Tranströmer

Domkyrka-Uppsala, June 2012

I vaguely remember being pleased that a Swede had won the Nobel Prize in Literature last year, though there was plenty else going on in my life so I don’t think I even paid attention to the name of the author.  Now, after so many years not using my Swedish intentionally, I found myself wanting to read in that beautiful language again. A friend recommended I read Tomas Tranströmer’s poetry.  Someone has said it is spare, almost gaunt. I am double fortunate because much of his work has been translated into English so I can read it in both languages and I catch things in each I wouldn’t in the other. It is so beautiful.  

Romanesque Arches

Tourists have crowded into the half-dark of the enormous
Romanesque church.
Vault opening behind vault and no perspective.
A few candle flames flickered
An angel whose face I couldn’t see embraced me
and his whisper went all through my body:
“Don’t be ashamed to be a human being; be proud!
Inside you one vault after another opens endlessly.
You’ll never be complete, and that’s as it should be.”
Tears blinded me
as we were herded out into the fiercely sunlit piazza,
together with Mr. and Mrs. Jones, Herr Tanaka and Signora
within each of them vault after vault opened endlessly.

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