Monday, February 2, 2009

Tomas Transtromer's "From an African Diary"/thanks to Hal Johnson

From an African Diary

On the Congolese marketplace pictures
shapes move thin as insects, deprived of their human power.
It's a hard passage between two ways of life.
He who has arrived has a long way to go.

A young man found a foreigner lost among the huts.
Didn't know whether to take him for a friend or a subject for extortion.
His doubt disturbed him. They parted in confusion.

The Europeans mostly stay clustered by the car as if it were Mama.
The crickets are as strong as electric razors. The car drives home.
Soon the beautiful darkness comes, taking charge of the dirty clothes.
He who has arrived has a long way to go.

It helps perhaps with handshakes like a flight of migratory birds.
It helps perhaps to let truth out of the books.
It is necessary to go further.

The student reads in the night, reads and reads to be free
and having passed his exam he becomes a step for the next man.
A hard passage.
He who has gone furthest has a long way to go.

--Tomas Tranströmer

tr. Robin Fulton

fr. Bells and Tracks (1966)
and in The Great Enigma: New Collected Poems
[New York: New Directions, 2006]


Chasing Wind Mills, Why Not? said...

the images, the words send one right to the place, I can small the Congo, Africa the market, wonderful poem Peace ko shin Bob Hanson

Philip Metres said...

Thanks for your comment, Bob--