(Friday, February 7)
It is a Friday noon and I’ll wash my hair and when it has dried, I intend to take the bus to city and walk from there to the local library. Unfortunately, it takes at least 15 minutes for me to walk the inner city side roads with no bus stops close, but with uncomfortable old-time cobblestones to stumble upon and nowadays constantly blocked streets for road work for cable laying to walk around, me carry my overweight and aching feet.
I call it my Via Dolorosa, as nowadays oldish and somewhat disabled caused of chronic pains, this walk once a month to return and borrow books. Yet, a library is an amazing asset, a way out of the physical and social limitations out of where you are. Wherever places that I have lived in this country, my steady path always goes to the library, it’s my watering hole.
I grew up in a farmworker family in the 50’s and in the early 60’s. It was very few books in the home and certainly not any reading habits but an overprotecting mother’s prejudice against reading and fighting resistance for me not to become a bibliophile, which in her mind as she told posed an obvious risk to get mental ill in future.
I think it was a quite common prejudice during these past times of the older generation in working classes all over the world – and even now for that matter. So nothing special about that. But for children in such poor marginalized families, the school libraries were eye openers, showing alternate realities. Thus both an escape from a narrow reality and creation of realities with other spaces to dream about to be able to realize.
I “met” my first school library at age nine, and this room with bookshelves did not only offer an escape into the book world but the room was in itself a shelter from the schoolyards merciless bullying. (You were allowed to stay indoors during the breaks if to visit the library. At first it was just a hide-away. I was mostly the only visitor there and for any reason, bullies have no interest of such rooms.) That hate from schoolmates was also new to me too and sadly this harmful exposure came to follow me for life, even as an adult. Well, as well as my love for libraries, of course.
Why one get ostracized by others, I haven’t a clue. One who has got the soul raped repeatedly never heals. But those perpetrators once walks free among us now, established in society and never punished.
I never told at home about the bullying, because it was hell at home at that time as well and telling would had made my life even worse. I literally walked every day between two poles of hell, helpless and devastated, it was more than a child could cope with. And extended over time a never ending violence, you get your natural born trust in others thoroughly eradicated. In one way or another you become a loner, visible or hidden in the soul.
There are many spaces in a library to compensate for what you once lost but what you can get. New spectra to get to know – knowledge, insights, people and their lives comes to you from the dry dusty paper pages of the opened book in your hands. It’s magic. It’s wonderful.
But in today’s society, some municipal politicians want to save money by closing or restricting school libraries and further and even worse controlling the activities and services of local libraries. These opportunities and democratic rights for everyone in this country since about 150 years back, whatever if poor or rich, Swedes or foreigners, are now threatened by short-term thinking and petty-minded folly – and it really makes me upset. Because fact is: the city libraries everywhere there I have lived have been my real universities and freedom creators and given me the intellectual capacity I have today! Yes, I certainly take it personal!
I’ve heard people with tough past romanticize their lives with saying they would not want it differently as all that bad that once was, created them to the person they are today. And they like what they are now and don’t want it differently. That’s bullshit. You become the good you are now by have had assets to establishments like libraries or a sport clubs or similar and by have met some significant others that became a life changer for you by telling you something that gave you courage and love, a light of hope that made you bloom.
I have recently read some reviews about the Swedish poet Lennart Sjögren’s latest poetry collection and my goal with this days visit on the library is not only to return books and borrow some new to read but to checkup if this poetry collection is available to borrow. If it’s not I will certainly order the book.
I read a lot of this poet when I still was in young age and he was already middle-aged. Now he’s 89 and still fluently writing. That’s thrilling and you know – with a bit of luck I may have at least 19 years of writing skill and brain fitness.
I read online one of the poems in this his latest poetry collection about a water drop that was somewhat an amazing reading. And he has a kind of a preface to this latest collection.
Undvik inte extasen
nu när torkan
alltmer breder ut sig över de inre fälten.
Don’t avoid the ecstasy
now when the drought
increasingly extends over the inner fields.
But I really don’t remember why I fancy his poetry as young. He had (have?) a kind of animistic or nature grounded life space, but without spiritual or romantic overtones. It was and is more about death and slaughter and all kind of decays in nature and in bodies. It’s kind of strange obsession and nothing for anyone with sensitive stomach and not really either for an easily touched and compassionate mind like mine. Yet as said, he was one of my favorite poets at the time.
I experienced his poems as very good writing, of course. But I think it also was because I participated in some events there he and other poets read their poems. I noticed he was not like the other poets, i.e. outgoing and talkative or calmly swimming in an elegant and literary superior blazer, therein the 70s corral.
No, he seemed to be at the side of the others. And perhaps he was a withdrawn person, but I don’t know if he really was as I never talked to him. But he read his texts, taking the place in the room for his poetry, undisturbed of others pretentious chatter. It might have been the attraction for me, as I’m a kind of the same character, though not with that self-confidence he seemed to have and in this it maybe was something for the young girl I was to fish for.
(But now know, I’m pretty useless to describe another real living person, so if anyone who knows him would read this, he or she would maybe be surprised of my description of the poet. However, it is about my image of him back then – as far as I remember it.)
Now home again and it’s Friday night 8th. I had to order the book, yes. Though my brain may not be that fit as the requested poet’s. The librarian who served me said the book could be available on February 8 and slow in mind I got it to be one month later from now – I was still in the month of January! But during the evening phone call with my son and talking about the wanted book, I finally got it right and landed in the right month.
We are in February, yes!
So I don’t have to wait a month for the book but shortly again take that walk of tribulation. But my feet or rather my front insteps needs a couple of days to recover from a walk to visit the library. (Sure, I would take a taxi if I could afford it!)
My son (35 y.o.) has his own distracting battles confusing his mind and makes him forget things, like he told me he had called me earlier at 5ish PM. But I checked my cell phone for missed calls, none recorded. It’s his stressful job and his longtime fucked up health issues increasing more and more that makes him mixed up and absent-minded. We talked about it. Then again he said “I thought you said at first you would get the book on the 28th coming”. “Did I?”I said “no?”.
When you are 35 you fear you have “personality disorder” when you become overtired and disoriented, when it is actually your work situation that’s all fucked up. At 70 and mix up and forget about things, you fear that you are becoming senile.
People today begin the day by check their smartphones to later stand at the bus stop doing the same, in the 70s people began the day by light a cigarette and then the same at the bus stop and everywhere.
Cigarettes is certainly poison but nicotine is better than smart phones to make your brain focused and bright. I miss smoking. But I don’t miss that time although it was easy to get a job and there was faith in the future. It was another society.
St Valentine’s Day will soon be and I paused this essay with writing a love poem. That “you” subject for my poem turned it down IRL when he had read it with telling me, for him love was not one day only but all days and further he tried every day to make our love possible… Yeah, it was a rejection truly – and as I think that day is to be for positive poems and nice greetings only, I have now no poem for the day to share on my blog!
A lover should know that a poetry talent as mine is irreplaceable, but there are many men in this world and he is surely replaceable. If I had to choose between to be able to write and him, I would never choose him. Writing is life.
I borrowed the last previous poetry collection by Sjögren from 2017. And from my bookshelf at home the three I own, them all published in the 70s.
I can’t find any love poems by him. That’s strange. In his collection from 2017 there is one poem I can imaging to maybe be about a more personal relationship. Maybe!
Trodde inget mer fanns att vänta på
här längst ut på livets udde
inget annat än det sista steget från markens fasta.
Då vände sig livet plötsligt om
och visade sina rovdjurständer:
Jag klöser dig, du klöser mig
jag äter dig, du äter mig
uppätna smeker vi varandra en stund
som man gör i Paradiset.
Thought nothing more was to wait for
here at the end of life’s headland
nothing but the last step from the solid of ground.
Then life suddenly turned around
and showed its predator teeth:
I scratch you, you scratch me
I eat you, you eat me
eaten we caress each other for a while
as one does in Paradise
(my translation only for this blog, not to be spread)
That’s a terrible poem and hardly for soft Valentine greetings. Why did I like him once?
It has now come to night to Wednesday (12th) and my reading the last few days of this poet from past reading life has made me remember some others of the writers I read in the 70s, poets, novelists and short story writers. To say it shortly, I don’t read them anymore and maybe I would not like them anymore if I tried. Why did I not read Tomas Tranströmer in those day, for example? His “Collected poems” is nowadays like a bible resting at my bedside table.
What did my eyes see then, that I now reject?
And so I found that specific poem by Sjögren that I once fell for me and which still makes me thrilled when I read it. I think it’s an absolutely fantastic poem.
It’s from a poetry collection published 1972 with the title “Människans fot” (= The Human Foot), the book is hardly available any longer and I don’t think the poem is translated in English.
So I will translate it now for you. Yes, but note that my translation is only for this my blog, not to be spread. Also be aware before the reading that it is a very long poem, 5 pages actually in the book – so if you want to follow me to the end reading it, you may want to take a break now first to pee and make a pot of tea… You will need it!
(from the poetry collection Människans fot by Lennart Sjögren; published in Sweden 1972)
With my eye
I’m on my way through the world. It is the beginning
of the 70s, soon it will be a forgotten date.
I walk and walk through the days
one evening I stood in a landscape
and saw a large wagon roll by
– it was almost transcendental –
I saw wide paintings in clear colors
I saw that which bubbling over.
I was in Stockholm one evening
it was a sooty evening with black ice shine
here are many lying outdoors in winter
they have no benefit of my poems.
Nature pictures – rowanberry bright.
The protected images
And more difficult images from life – hateful, hurtful.
Images between what seen and that only through hearsays
that from the own living and the allegories.
I chop and chop me forward
it grows up again.
I meet friends and enemies, at times they gets premixed.
Go against the wind, throw up sand in the eyes of others
get sand back
best would be to simply and straightforwardly
with an ax chop through the brushwood
show where one walked. Get a direction.
It grows up again.
And life keeps on doing its own at the side
it does not care about others
it is always ongoing. A life that is bubbling over.
I like the clear, the green, red, blue
with strong sunshine
but rarely is life and clarity the same.
I leave the beautiful for the ugly
for the shaky I abandon what’s static
and step down from the sidewalks
thereunder, where it flows, where the tin cans,
the cigarette butts, the subsidence, where
the asphalt never really dries, where
the electrical systems, the short circuits,
the floods in the sewers.
I’m looking for a randomly furnished room
preferably at Bubbling Street
with views to strict windows to a backyard
– I’ll stay there for a few days.
A certain kind of consolation is there.
The excavated little figurines with inward smiles
from archaic times
I distrust them more and more.
I think they brood over a void
and make something special about it.
Truer images can then be found in life:
The big rodent-pictures.
But who can handle see them!
Yet – parenthetically – it is so
that people who have tasted death
in its way resembles the statuettes.
We avoid them. Do we avoid a knowing?
The difficult truth and the difficult bright-eyed views
the difficult loneliness and the difficult life together.
I’m just telling about myself
just by get to view oneself can a certain
measure of truth be reached. Sudden one day – free.
Touched certain things, met people,
had a conversation, felt taste and smell.
The sharp and the unsharp.
The difficult ages: Children, Young, Middle Ages, Old
who is lying.
The Children about its innocence
Young who disguises in straightforwardness
middle age with all its about the doable
old up to eighty who believe in its humility.
I reckon kinships with them all.
The rhythmic shakes of life
the certain and the uncertain.
The rural paintings as resting places for that overexcited.
The pleasant bark in the trunks.
But to stay there is not possible. The broad. And the green.
– This with the small accidents and the big ones
this with the world
and the people in the world.
Living together, the prickly in the eyes, the queues
the noddings, the bowings, the bettors.
The newspaper reports that massacre us.
I have my eye
the colors are intended for furnished rooms
they cannot withstand no major heat.
A part of the world is burning up – I make a picture of it
and it is a cynicism.
Those who die, die without color.
To give a clear yes, a clear no!
Most people come sometimes in situations
which is not covered by either.
To learn to realize the incompatible
to not to talk too much about the brave and the cowardly
to nor mention too much
color connoisseurs, wise heads.
To live with the pain.
I walk and walk, life is it what walks in me
I really don’t know any more if I look for a landmark
I am practicing in walking
– scared as I am to grow old
I fantasize to walk to catch up with the Impossible.
I give up today the thought on the world’s center
I am provincial
as an old-fashioned outdoor painter I walk
through parishes, painting landscapes, genre images
– and it’s not a consolation, not even an excuse –
it happened, it is an event
it is a way of walking move forward.
We who flee into the global maps
and we who flee into the private kitchen
the fleeing that surrounds us all.
The poem of the eye.
But also in the eye there is a thought, a foundation.
There grows eye, ear, mouth
To in the eye catch a beach
and the moth gray in a snowstorm, to feel in the ear
the footsteps towards a gravel path
to taste saliva, the spices for the palate and the soul.
The human testimony.
But senses are vulnerable, they are easily ripped up.
I’m just the eye. I have no defense.
To choose the sharp before the unsharp
to test, experience with the hand
– to let my hand become my conscience.
I carry my pen with me, it is my only weapon.
I make notes.
To finally move freely
– but “free” is a net like an eel trap –
believe itself moving freely
one day in one life
feel the hours changing
and the people moving around there.
And the weekend passed, I read the poetry collections I had at home and wrote on this post. And on Wednesday I received an email that the ordered book was available to pick up. Another walk the same day with my sore feet and worn-out hips. The lady who once was a promise – me – who just has grown old.
It has been a long journey this – back to my 70s. It made me to recall the prose writers I read a lot in those times. But never now! Why is that, I ask myself again?
And back at the library to get the ordered book, I also looked up one of those writers I was then admiring reading. I found all his books down the stairs in the archive! Maybe the books were moved to there because of space reasons, or because he has been forgotten in the today literary noise. I don’t know.
But I have a weird feeling that the young woman who moved in the 70’s landscape was someone other than me. And that I really don’t know her now. So am I somebody else now? Whatever if, that was the humus then. And the flower that was meant be, grew to a tree. And I write you through the branches.
This about a library visit and a journey in my mind back to my reading past, in a search for the Swedish poet Lennart Sjögren and his latest book “I grenverket” 2019. A week passed by.
Lennart Sjögren: born 1930, poet, painter and partly farmer (a time). His first poetry collection 1958. And he married 1958 and is still married to the same woman, who’s also a painter and illustrate his book covers. Both lives on the farm there he once was born.
The Swedish original of the poem by Lennart Sjögren
ÖGAT (ur diktsamlingen Människans fot, 1972
Med mitt öga
är jag på väg genom världen. Det är i början av
70-talet, snart ska det vara ett glömt datum.
Jag går och går genom dagarna
en kväll stod jag i ett landskap
och såg en stor vagn rulla förbi
– den var nästan översinnlig –
jag såg breda tavlor i klara färger
jag såg det som bubblade över.
Jag var en kväll i Stockholm
det var en sotig kväll med svarta isblänk
här ligger många utomhus på vintern
de har ingen glädje av mina dikter.
Naturbilder – rönnbärsklara.
De skyddade bilderna
Och svårare bilder ur livet – hätska, sårfulla.
Bilder mellan det sedda och det bara genom hörsägner
det ur den egna levnaden och allegorierna.
Jag hugger och hugger mig fram
det växer upp igen.
Jag möter vänner och ovänner, ibland förblandar de sig.
Gå mot vinden, sprätta upp sand i ögonen på andra
få sand tillbaka
bäst vore att helt enkelt och rakt på sak
med en yxa hugga sig genom snårskogen
visa var man gått. Skaffa sig riktning.
Det växer upp igen.
Och livet som håller på med sitt vid sidan om
det bryr sig inte om andra
det håller alltid på. Ett liv som bubblar över.
Jag tycker om det klara, det gröna, röda, blå
med starkt solsken
men sällan är liv och klarhet detsamma.
Jag lämnar det sköna för det osköna
för det ryckiga överger jag det statiska
och stiger ner från trottoarerna
därunder, där det rinner, där bleckburkarna, fimparna
där sättningarna, där asfalten aldrig riktigt torkar,
där elektiska systemen, kortslutningarna
översvämningarna i avloppen.
Jag söker ett slumpvis möblerat rum
gärna vid Bubblande gatan
med utsikt mot stränga fönster på en bakgård
– jag stannar där några dygn.
En viss slags tröst finns där.
De uppgrävda små statyetterna med inåtvända leenden
från arkaiska tider
dem misstror jag alltmera.
Jag tror de ruvar över ett tomrum
och gör något märkvärdig av det.
Sannare bilder finns då ur livet:
De stora gnagarebilderna.
Men orkar se dem!
Ändå –parentetiskt – är det ju så
att människorna som smakat döden
på sitt sätt liknar statyetterna.
Vi undviker dem. Undviker vi ett vetande?
Den svåra sanningen och de svåra klarögdheterna
den svåra ensamheten och den svåra samlevnaden.
Jag bara berättar om mig själv
bara genom att få syn på sig själv
kan ett visst mått av sanning nås. Plötsligt en dag – fri.
Tog på vissa saker, mötte folk,
hade ett samtal, kände smak och lukt.
Det skarpa och det oskarpa.
De svåra åldrarna: Barn, Unga, Medelålders, Gamla
Barnen om sin oskuld
Unga som förställer sig i rättframhet
medelålders med allt sitt om det genomförbara
gamla uppåt åttio som tror på sin ödmjukhet.
Jag räknar släktskap med dem alla.
De rytmiska skakningarna i livet
säkerheten och det osäkra.
Folklivstavlorna som viloplatser för det uppskärrade.
Den sköna barken i stammarna.
Men stanna där går inte. Det breda. Och det gröna.
– Det här med de små olyckorna och de stora
det här med världen
och människorna i världen.
Leva ihop, det stickiga i ögonen, köerna
nickningarna, bugningarna, vadhållarna.
Tidningsnyheterna som massakrerar oss.
Jag har mitt öga
färgerna är avsedda för möblerade rum
de tål ingen större hetta.
En del av världen brinner upp – jag gör en bild av det
och det är en cynism.
De som dör dör utan färger.
Att ge ett blankt ja, ett blankt nej!
De flesta människor kommer någon gång i situationer
som inte täcks av någondera.
Att lära sig inse det oförenliga
att inte för mycket tala om de modiga och de fega
att inte heller för mycket nämna
Att dras med plågan.
Jag går och går, livet är det som går i mig
jag vet egentligen inte längre om jag söker en hållpunkt
jag övar mig i gående
– rädd som jag är för att bli gammal
fantiserar jag om att gående hinna upp det Omöjliga.
Jag uppger idag tanken på världens centrum
jag är provinsiell
som en gammaldags friluftsmålare går jag
genom socknar, målar landskap, genrebilder
– och det är inte en tröst, inte ens en undanflykt –
det blev så, det är en händelse
det är ett sätt att gående ta sig fram.
Vi som flyr in i de globala kartorna
och vi som flyr in i det privata köket
flyendet som omger oss alla.
Men också i ögat finns en tanke, ett fundament.
Där växer ögas, öras, muns
Att i ögat fånga en badstrand
och det malgrå i en snöstorm, att i örat känna
fotstegen mot en grusgång
att smaka saliv, kryddorna för gommen och själen.
Det mänskligas vittnesbörd.
Men sinnena är sårbara, de fläks lätt sönder.
Jag är bara ögat. Jag har inget försvar.
Att välja det skarpa före det oskarpa
att pröva, känna med handen
– att låta handen bli mitt samvete.
Jag bär min penna med mig, den är mitt enda vapen.
Jag gör anteckningar.
Att äntligen röra sig fritt
– men ”fritt” är ett nät som en ålryssja –
tro sig röra sig fritt
en dag i ett liv
känna timmarna förändras
och människorna som rör sig där.
And it is now night until Friday the 14th of February when I publish this post. Not a love poem but about a love for a poem from the 70s – and to library books. Then as well as now.
The 70s was a different society than today. There were welfare and equality times alright, but you could still be discriminated and insulted in a way that is not allowed nowadays.
I was also someone else, different.