No. 8-9


Göran Sonnevi 

Translated from the Swedish by John Matthias 


From Mozart Variations

(Surviving Lines of an Unfinished Translation Made 
with Göran Printz-Påhlson, 1984-1986)


Mozart and the whiteness of morning


a face which has cut off, white

as a physical pain
close to the unendurable—


Inscrutable humankind, violent

listen to the sounds
the silence grows inside me, a huge cone
a funnel
sucking me up into space

so it was
when I had the entire world
growing in my belly, the globe
just grew and grew, and I rose and rose
a tiny shape
on the infinite surface
shouted, cried
from there, to you, out of my mouth
came letter-sculpted blocks
of silence


Flowering hawthorn

The smell of grass
and under the green,
the shell of a small snail

and breaks up my face

series on series of abstract transformations


The first shapes of an infinite fear break
out in me, an anxiety
I cannot explain at all

it has to do with school
third or fourth grade elementary, we were
forty or forty-five children, the classroom
large, oblong, I sat
quite far away
the teacher far away at his lectern
Sometimes something happened to me then
which made the teacher up there shrink, be
thrown infinitely far away
in a room growing larger and larger, especially
his head
grew infinitely small, he screamed and shouted, once
he broke his pointer on
the lectern so that
one of the pieces fell beside my desk
I said nothing to anyone
In my own head a strong white light was generated
The same light
the same splitting and swinging away occurred
when first I heard
this music, 1959


At a desk diagonally behind me sat a large girl
who used to have fits of some kind,
she would throw back her head and arch
over her desk, I
remember it as if in utter silence, before
the rattle in the throat, the lowing sound
emerges, comes
from within myself, grows into
a scream, roars from pain and from despair

the music is full of despair
it breaks inside my head
nobody talked to her
nobody talked to me


Grandfather had a cancer of the throat, the silence
grew in his throat, they said
because of too much singing
It is dangerous to open your mouth

Music sings with a wide open mouth

I was often beaten in the school yard, the others
standing round me in a circle screaming
I fought, in utter silence

rocking my head, my body
feeling the tears come
infinitely long ago
infinitely old

beneath this music is the growing globe of fear
colorless or the color of brass


Without my ego’s momentary shadow
the world’s straight current of signs
would break up and obliterate
my whole being, my body
would be wholly identical
with the world’s straight, dazzling surface
small bundles of energy
which kindle irregularly, flame up
like a small vortex in empty space and time

The straight white surface sings in A-major

Mozart doesn’t exist any more

Nothing exists any more

Nothing is going to exist any more




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