Sunday, February 12, 2012

standing up

In a split second of hard thought, I managed to catch her.  I stopped, holding the hen in my hands.  Strange, she didn't really feel living: rigid, dry, and old white plume-ridden lady's hat that shrieked out the truths of 1912.  Thunder in the air.  An odor rose from the fence-boards, as when you open a photo album that has got so old that no one can identify the people any longer.

I carried her back inside the chicken netting and let her go.  All of a sudden she came back to life, she knew who she was, and ran off according to the rules.  Hen-yards are thick with taboos.  But the earth all around is full of affection and tenacity.  A low stone wall half-overgrown with leaves.  When dusk begins to fall the stones are faintly luminous with the hundred-year-old warmth from the hands that built it.

It's been a hard winter, but summer is here and the fields want us to walk upright.  Every man unimpeded, but careful, as when you stand up in a small boat.  I remember a day in Africa: on the banks of the Chari, there were many boats, an atmosphere positively friendly, the men almost blue-black in color with three parallel scars on each cheek (meaning the Sara tribe).  I am welcomed on a boat - it's a canoe hollowed from a dark tree.  The canoe is incredibly wobbly, even when you sit on your heels.  A balancing act.  If you have the heart on the left side you have to lean a bit to the right, nothing in the pockets, no big arm movements, please, all rhetoric has to be left behind.  Precisely: rhetoric is impossible here.  The canoe glides out over the water.

~ Tomas Transtromer
from The Half-Finished Heaven
translation by Robert Bly