November in the Former DDR

By Tomas Tranströmer b. 1931 Tomas Transtromer
The almighty cyclop’s-eye clouded over
and the grass shook itself in the coal dust.

Beaten black and blue by the night’s dreams
we board the train
that stops at every station
and lays eggs.

Almost silent.
The clang of the church bells’ buckets
fetching water.
And someone’s inexorable cough
scolding everything and everyone.

A stone idol moves its lips:
it’s the city.
Ruled by iron-hard misunderstandings
among kiosk attendants butchers
metal-workers naval officers
iron-hard misunderstandings, academics!

How sore my eyes are!
They’ve been reading by the faint glimmer of the glow-worm   lamps.

November offers caramels of granite.
Unpredictable!
Like world history
laughing at the wrong place.

But we hear the clang
of the church bells’ buckets fetching water
every Wednesday
- is it Wednesday? -
so much for our Sundays!

“November in the Former DDR” from New and Collected Poems by Tomas Transtromer, translated by Robin Fulton. Published in 1997 by Bloodaxe Books. www.bloodaxebooks.com

Source: New and Collected Poems (Bloodaxe Books, 1997)

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Poet Tomas Tranströmer b. 1931

POET’S REGION Scandinavia

Subjects Social Commentaries, History & Politics, Cities & Urban Life

Poetic Terms Free Verse

Biography

Tomas Tranströmer, one of Sweden’s leading poets, studied poetry and psychology at the University of Stockholm. His numerous collections of poetry include Windows and Stones (1972), an International Poetry Forum Selection and runner-up for the National Book Award for translation, and The Great Enigma: New Collected Poems (2006, 2011), translated by Robin Fulton. His longstanding friendship with poet Robert Bly, who has also . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Social Commentaries, History & Politics, Cities & Urban Life

POET’S REGION Scandinavia

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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