Kjell Espmark

from "The Inner Space"

Claire Anna Baker "SunBody"

Claire Anna Baker "SunBody"


We've camped by the tarn, father and I.

The sky is white, no help with a script.       

Nothing to be heard but nervous midges,

and the crackle and hiss of the fire

as father roasts char in grease-paper.

This mountain silence

takes in our years of silence and distance –

years he thinks have been put in brackets.   

His hands fumble through lack of language –

try to hit upon words that mend

what never could be mended.

We are dark in the white night

as if we were film negatives.

He smiles vaguely handing me the coffee.

But his grey-blue eyes are helpless.


     * * *


In February 1945

the world collapses for a second time.

The Russians reach Auschwitz

and a realm of the dead

opens in the middle of Europe.

Starved souls stream from the gloom,

more eyes than body.

One of them, the Jewish lad Benjamin,

is suddenly there in my boy's room,

still in his striped rags,

fingering my model plane

and trying out the chair at the birchwood desk

with its maps of the battle-fields.

Hearing my voice he jumps up

ready as always for the guards' fists.

He shares my room for several years –

no-one notices

the second tooth-brush in the glass.

What I write in those years

looks for some pattern to make him clear.


     * * *


We walk among the trees on Runmarö.

Tomas, at work on Baltics,

steps in the ”high style.” He has let me read

and feel how the Baltic wind

bears voices with holes

scissored out by the censor.

And how what will happen is already here

but won't speak out.

The pine needles are a coded text

and the clouds shift, loth to be read.

Italics specify: it's aphasia.

But that´s a muteness that can be overcome.

As when a Russian composer

after a stroke can't make sense of a text

yet is able to write music to it.

That simile knows a chapter-to-come!

As if Tomas had heard how a door

bangs shut in a later year

but delivers its echo already now.

The jellyfish squelching at the water's edge

glistens with its perilous message.


     * * *


Sudden cracks appear between the words

in Wan Xia's tactful poem about my death.

And the cherry-blossom swirls away

turned to snow in the whirlwind

round the words that at last remain –

"a capricious suicide." I, so shaken

by the massacre on Tiananman Square

that life seems no longer possible

crouch by the track in the snowstorm.

And what language can´t say is said.      

As the engine headlamps fill the world

I throw myself out into the light.

My cry which should have been stifled by the snow

echoes away beyond the borders.


     * * *


The May night brightens.

The moon hangs in the apple-tree.

By the low wall extinct

wild tulips make a yellow attempt.

The damp grass breaks the light

into specks of red, violet and green,

with dark footprints that hesitated –

the blackbird seems to have discovered Mozart.

We stand there shone-through, silenced.

The wall's experienced stones

and the old red side-building        

are a hand opened to the moment.


     * * *


I feel how you think in me – a thrill

like moonlight speeding to me on water.

I reply with some definitions:


Your face is like a trembling reflection

in a bowl of water.

I want to carry it through the years

without spilling.


My thoughts of you are weightless.

They rotate and glimmer like specks of dust

in the strip of morning sun through the window.


In gratitude for their rustic supper

friendly gods let us be two trees

growing old with our crowns entwined.




Swedish poet and Nobel Prize judge, KJELL ESPMARK, is an internationally renowned poet and novelist, the author of thirteen volumes of poetry which have been translated into multiple languages. His many prizes include the Bellman Prize for poetry and the Schuck Prize for literary criticism, the Kellgren Prize, the Great Prize of “The Nine,” and the Tranströmer Prize. He has been a member of the Nobel Committee and served as chairman from 1988-2004.