Göran Sonnevi

Translated from the Swedish by Rika Lesser

In the Darkness of Voices

I      Night
Dreamed of you
last night, beloved
friend   Of your
I would
be with
you, always

Does the sole nation consist
of all the dead?
Yes!   All the dead
and all the living
Then also the unborn?
Yes!   What did you think!
Only then are we close

God, who is God
of the living   Does not one
among the dead cry out to you?
The living cry out to you, so
that you may hear   Hear me!
Hear too the dead
Be not afraid

If we do not hear
one another's voice, where
then will we land?
In the darkness, in the darkness of voices
If we do not see
in the darkness of voices?

I look into the eye of sounds
variations in the iris
around the pupil's
spreading or compressing
darkness   No sound
unambiguous, constant
Every tone's ladder
shifts into another
Different ladders
toward infinity
The center of darkness
also exists everywhere—

V       antiphthongon
We are bound
also in annihilation
In its darkness   So
the darkness sings
Until it too
goes silent

The music of Paradise hurts deeply   It
resounds with pure pain, unpredictable
Not either from Paradise
will I turn my face
Glittering darkly you look at me
I hear heartbeats, one by one

O touch me
with your ultimate language's
fingers   Toward
the universe's innermost
limit   Utterly
Then I too
will touch you—

Your dark, interior crystals   Will their
position shift   I see the shimmer, vibr-
ating   Darkness's shimmer, which cannot be seen
without light   I would touch them

Anguish too is
like the deep logos
without limit   Where are
its doors?

You who are there
for me, with your
existence, your love
One day
neither will you
exist   Neither
then will I

Göran Sonnevi was born in Lund, Sweden in 1939. He spent his childhood and youth in Halmstad, where he studied the natural sciences, concentrating in mathematics. He is the author of sixteen books of poems; the latest, Sequences Toward Omega, will be published in May. The list of Sonnevi’s awards runs from 1967 through 2016. Among the many are the 2005 Nordic Prize from the Swedish Academy (“the little Nobel”), and the 2006 Literature Prize of the Nordic Council. In 1983 Sonnevi became a recipient of a lifetime grant from the Swedish government. Eighteen or more books of his poetry have been published in at least a dozen languages, including Finnish and Turkish. He resides with his family in Järfälla, part of the greater Stockholm metropolitan area.

Rika Lesser is the author of four books of poetry and seven of poetry in translation, including works by Rilke, Ekelöf, and Dimoula. Two are selections of Göran Sonnevi’s poetry: A Child Is Not a Knife (Princeton, 1993) and Mozart’s Third Brain (Yale, 2009). Her honors include the Amy Lowell Poetry Travelling Scholarship, two NEA Translation Grants, and two Translation Prizes from the Swedish Academy. She is also a Guild- Certified Feldenkrais® Practitioner and makes her home in Brooklyn Heights.

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