A Life

By Edith Södergran 1892–1923 Edith Sodergran

Translated from the Swedish by Averill Curdy Read the translator's notes

That the stars are adamant
everyone understands—
but I won’t give up seeking joy on each blue wave
or peace below every gray stone.
If happiness never comes, what is a life?
A lily withers in the sand
and if its nature has failed? The tide
                                         washes the beach at night.
What is the fly looking for on the spider’s web?
What does a dayfly make of its hours?
(Two wings creased over a hollow body.)

Black will never turn to white—
yet the perfume of our struggle lingers
as each morning fresh flowers
spring up from hell.

The day will come
when the earth is emptied, the skies collapse
and all goes still—
when nothing remains but the dayfly
                                         folded in a leaf.
But no one knows it.

Source: Poetry (March 2012).

MORE FROM THIS ISSUE

This poem originally appeared in the March 2012 issue of Poetry magazine

March 2012

Biography

Edith Södergran (1892–1923) was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, and educated at a German-language girls school there. Before her death at age thirty-one, Södergran published five collections of poetry.

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Life Choices, Sorrow & Grieving, The Mind, Time & Brevity

Poetic Terms Free Verse

Report a problem with this poem


Your results will be limited to content that appeared in Poetry magazine.

Search Every Issue of Poetry

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.