Translated from the Swedish by Rika Lesser
In the Darkness of Voices
I Night Dreamed of you last night, beloved friend Of your defenselessness Understood I would be with you, always II 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 III 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 IV 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? V 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 VII 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 VIII O touch me with your ultimate language's fingers Toward the universe's innermost limit Utterly Then I too will touch you— IX 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 X Anguish too is like the deep logos without limit Where are its doors? XI 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.