Tomas Tranströmer Poems

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After A Death

Once there was a shock
that left behind a long, shimmering comet tail.
It keeps us inside. It makes the TV pictures snowy.
It settles in cold drops on the telephone wires.

The Indoors Is Endless

It’s spring in 1827, Beethoven
hoists his death-mask and sails off.

The grindstones are turning in Europe’s windmills.

The Couple

They switch off the light and its white shade

glimmers for a moment before dissolving

like a tablet in a glass of darkness. Then up.


Men in overalls the same color as earth rise from a ditch.
It's a transitional place, in stalemate, neither country nor city.
Construction cranes on the horizon want to take the big leap,
but the clocks are against it.

National Insecurity

The Under Secretary leans forward and draws an X
and her ear-drops dangle like swords of Damocles.

November In The Former Ddr

The almighty cyclop’s-eye clouded over
and the grass shook itself in the coal dust.

Beaten black and blue by the night’s dreams

The Half-Finished Heaven

Despondency breaks off its course.
Anguish breaks off its course.
The vulture breaks off its flight.

Streets in Shanghai

The white butterfly in the park is being read by many.
I love that cabbage-moth as if it were a fluttering corner of truth itself!

At dawn the running crowds set our quiet planet in motion.
Then the park fills with people. To each one, eight faces polished like jade, for all
situations, to avoid making mistakes.
To each one, there's also the invisible face reflecting 'something you don't talk about.'
Something that appears in tired moments and is as rank as a gulp of viper schnapps with its long scaly aftertaste.

The carp in the pond move continuously, swimming while they sleep, setting an example for the faithful: always in motion.

It's midday. Laundry flutters in the gray sea-wind high over the cyclists
who arrive in dense schools. Notice the labrinths on each side!

I'm surrounded by written characters that I can't interpret, I'm illiterate through and through.
But I've paid what I owe and have receipts for everything.
I've accumulated so many illegible receipts.
I'm an old tree with withered leaves that hang on and can't fall to the ground.

And a gust from the sea gets all these receipts rustling.

At dawn the trampling hordes set our quiet planet in motion.
We're all aboard the street, and it's as crammed as the deck of a ferry.

Where are we headed? Are there enough teacups? We should consider ourselves lucky
to have made it aboard this street!
It's a thousand years before the birth of claustrophobia.

Hovering behind each of us who walks here is a cross that wants to catch up with us,
pass us, unite with us.
Something that wants to sneak up on us from behind, put its hands over our eyes and
whisper 'Guess who!'

We look almost happy out in the sun, while we bleed to death from wounds we don't
know about.

Sorrow Gondola No. 2

Two old men, father-and son-in-law, Liszt and Wagner, are staying by the Grand Canal
together with the restless woman who is married to King Midas,
he who changes everything he touches to Wagner.
The ocean's green cold pushes up through the palazzo floors.
Wagner is marked, his famous Punchinello profile looks more tired than before,
his face a white flag.
The gondola is heavy-laden with their lives, two round trips and a one-way.

A window in the palazzo flies open and everyone grimaces in the sudden draft.
Outside on the water the trash gondola appears, paddled by to one-oared bandits.
Liszt has written down some chords so heavy, they ought to be sent off
to the mineralological institute in Padua for analysis.
Too heavy to rest, they can only sink and sink straight through the future all the way down to the Brownshirt years.
The gondola is heavy-laden with the future's huddled-up stones.

Peep-holdes into 1990.

March 25th. Angst for Lithuania.
Dreamt I visited a large hospital.
No personnel. Everyone was a patient.

In the same dream a newborn girl
who spoke in complete sentences.

Beside the son-in-law, who's a man of the times, Liszt is a moth-eaten grand seigneur.
It's a disguise.
The deep, that tries on and rejects different masks, has chosen this one just for him—
the deep that wants to enter people without ever showing its face.

Abbé Liszt is used to carrying his suitcase himself through sleet and sunshine
and when his time comes to die, there will be no one to meet him at the station.
A mild breeze of gifted cognac carries him away in the midst of a commission.
He always has commissions.
Two thousand letters a year!
The schoolboy who writes his misspelled word a hundred times before he's allowed
to go home.
The gondola is heavy-laden with life, it is simple and black.

Back to 1990.

Dreamt I drove over a hundred miles in vain.
Then everything magnified. Sparrows as big as hens
sang so loud that it briefly struck me deaf.

Dreamt I had drawn piano keys
on my kitchen table. I played on them, mute.
The neighbors came over to listen.

The clavier, which kept silent through all of Parsifal (but listened), finally has
something to say.
When Liszt plays tonight he holds the sea-pedal pressed down
so the ocean's green force rises up through the floor and flows together with all the
stone in the building.
Good evening, beautiful deep!
The gondola is heavy-laden with life, it is simple and black.

Dreamt I was supposed to start school but arrived too late.
Everyone in the room was wearing a white mask.
Whoever the teacher was, no one could say.


Jag väcker bilen
som har vindrutan överdragen med frömjöl.
Jag sätter på mig solglasögonen.
Fågelsången mörknar.

Medan en annan man köper en tidning
på järnvägsstationen
i närheten av en stor godsvagn
som är alldeles röd av rost
och står flimrande i solen.

Inga tomrum någonstans här.

Tvärs genom vårvärmen en kall korridor
där någon kommer skyndande
och berättar att man förtalat honom
ända upp i styrelsen.

Genom en bakdörr i landskapet
kommer skatan
svart och vit, Hels fågel.
Och koltrasten som rör sig kors och tvärs
tills allt blir en kolteckning,
utom de vita kläderna på tvättstrecket:
en palestrinakör.

Inga tomrum någonstans här.

Fantastiskt att känna hur min dikt växer
medan jag själv krymper.
Den växer, den tar min plats.
Den tränger undan mig.
Den kastar mig ur boet.
Dikten är färdig.

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