Tomas Tranströmer



Sentry Duty


I’m ordered out to a big hump of stones

as if I were an aristocratic corpse from the Iron Age.

The rest are still back in the tent sleeping,

stretched out like spokes in a wheel.

In the tent the stove is boss: it is a big snake

that swallows a ball of fire and hisses.

But it is silent out here in the spring night

among chill stones waiting for the dawn.

Out here in the cold I start to fly

like a shaman, straight to her body—

some places pale from her swimming suit.

The sun shone right on us. The moss was hot.

I brush along the side of warm moments,

but I can’t stay there long.

I’m whistled back though space—

I crawl among the stones. Back to here and now.

Task: to be where I am.

Even in this solemn and absurd

role: I am still the place

where creation does some work on itself.

Dawn comes, the sparse tree trunks

take on color now, the frostbitten

forest flowers form a silent search party

after something that has disappeared in the dark.

But to be where I am . . . and to wait.

I am full of anxiety, obstinate, confused.

Things not yet happened are already here!

I feel that. They’re just out there:

a murmuring mass outside the barrier.

They can only slip in one by one.

They want to slip in. Why? They do

one by one. I am the turnstile.

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