No. 8


Henning Kramer Dahl  


The First Angel

The first angel
Was silence, the victorious.
I inquire after Death,
But the angel has no words
With which to lie to me.
I hold forth my hands,
Brimming with blood drenched words,
The fallen soldiers of truth,
The cunning martyrs of falsehood.
I make myself ready.
I am a foetus
Trembling, yearning for birth.

The Second Angel

The second angel 
Appeared before me upon soundless feet –
A light over the cold burnt-out ruins –
Dragging rusted tools,
Knives, hammers, and broken axes,
All that had once contained knowledge of uniting,
Jets of that pale heart’s blood
With cathedral scaffolding,
With a bed upon which to lay one’s beloved.
The angel breathed in my ear,
White with frosty voice:
Did you believe that the hand ever 
Drove the knife through brooding fibres,
Through defenceless flesh, through 
The already lost bastions of cartilage,
Without the heart’s blessing?
The angels stroked my forehead,
The fire of feathers against skin:
Did you believe there was mercy for you
Whilst the blood still signals its mortal fear
Upon the sooty walls of the furnace,
Whilst the bones rise each day to a scream
Deep inside the clouds of smoke?

The Third Angel

The angel encompasses you like a sheath,
Is part of your wandering,
And you are foam-whipped sea, 
Skin of sea-polished pebbles,
Reeds edging a wide-eyed bay.
Your heart swims intrepidly
Through torn nets
And I am three paces behind you
An undiscovered world away.
The angel flaps its salt-encrusted wings,
The shawl around your head slides back
The angel lifts a hand of rain
And loosens your plait of fiery hair.
The best angels come from the sea,
Rise out of the water,
Gaze upon you with the wild eyes of breakers.
Their wings are a mosaic of crystals 
Which are deposited upon your skin
In a stolen caress,
And coax out your spherical face
From under the strain of bitter days.
Between  sea mist and dusk
You are spun into the angels’ shining cocoon,
And I am three paces behind you , 
Sure footed, sure of the path.
You talk of love 
And I listen.

The Fourth Angel

In the shadow of a drunken day:
A warning in an open door
Which used to be closed.
A taste of salt on the tongue
In the moon-painted stairway
And a dark tingling of the mucous membranes,
A white swan outstretched upon the filthy bed.
I allow myself to fall through the cloud-cover of feathers
To the land of the two mountains 
And the scorching geyser.
I cling to the body’s long-limbed paleness
Whilst earthquakes destroy the creation.
With our nails we scratch
A new and as yet undeciphered language of runes
Into each others skin
And maps of a new world’s
Unchartered fantasies
With fish that flow and oxen with gills and fins.
I push my finger into the earth.
Her mouth was a field of millet
On the edge of a desert
And I allowed the rain to drum
Over the parched furrows.
She showed me an opening between the coral reefs
And in that scented lagoon 
I sank my wind-flayed ship 
Allowing it to rot 
In the soft sands.
But when  her wings were 
Close to splintering,
Time and time again she called
My unknown name.
The earth gave way under my feet
And I understood
Which lord she served
And why her eyes
Were overgrown with fallen light.

The Fifth Angel

The fifth angel
Hid its body’s leprous flowers
In a yellow and mildewed bridal garb,
And carefully advanced with  chiming bells.
In that ruined face 
I could glimpse the fugitive shadow
Of a caress in the dew,
A sea prayer at night to the full moon.
The angel kissed me 
With worm-eaten lips
And the voice that reached me seemed to arise
From the depths of a well:
This shall be your initiation,
By this sign 
You shall recognise
The return of The Sun Knight
To The Dark Land.

The Sixth Angel

The light in the factory building is thin
And sour as smoke.
Without the attention of well-trained hands
The machines languish.
Metal corrodes. Grass besieges concrete.
No quarter  given.
The angel bears a flaming helmet,
But the tongue is as cold as ice.
I have come and I see. I have come and I listen:
We had keys to the lock
Which opens the door to The Other Room.
We carried the keys with us always.
They were forged from the rhythm of the rivers,
Fashioned from the dripping odours of the forests,
Cast in the unspeakable  caverns which the mountains concealed.
This was before the lemur monkeys 
Started up the great wheel, before its greed
For distances was unleashed like a 
Juggernaut upon the world, before days and
Weeks were chained together like condemned  prisoners.

The holy blades clashed 
Against this human softness.
The army of angels was forced to flee
And was spread before the winds:
Many tumbled into the abyss
A became knavish mercenaries to a general
Whose smile caused the waters of the river
To evaporate,  hissing like a dying tiger
Whose breath caused poisonous snakes 
The ooze from the moss in the forests,
Whose commando cry made the most ancient mountains
To disintegrate into gravel around their secrets.
We have lost our keys.
We slink around the world like thieves.
And nevertheless you wish to question me
About why you were apportioned the writer’s fate.
You were not apportioned the writer’s fate.
You were apportioned the blacksmith’s fate,
And you shall forge the axe
Which will one day splinter the door
To The Other Room.

The Seventh Angel

I stood in the din created by
The weaponry of seconds,
Despairing, my face turned upwards
With the yarning for purification
Towards clouds which blew in with the rains 
Of obvious victory
From the mountain’s peristyle of laurels
Over the steaming rivers.
The day kissed its comrades farewell
And rolled forth a red carpet
Of expectorated lungs’ blood
When sexton Night comes drifting in
With his black mourning cloth
And his round silver spade.
A confounded army of bones follows in his footsteps;
Their shrill flute playing drew forth
Like hypnothised snakes
The spiralling walls of earthly dust
The bread split and turned into mouldy ears of corn
In unharvested  fields
Stinkingly overflowing with flood water
And rotting corpses of sheep.
The wine gushed from the mug
Forming a grapevine
Weighed down to the earth
By shiny grasshopper grapes.
I saw the salt fall powerlessly into the sea
Whitening in a flash
Before the water’s wet brush
Painted it wash of oblivion.

I stood with the seventh angel.
He, the expelled.
He, whose wings cannot hinder
The fall amongst the inconceivable Mystery Systems
Of the Universe.

He stood in my light and drank it
Just as the paper steals the poems 
And dissipates it into ink.
The seventh angel bound my arms with his breath,
Tamed  my muscle fibre with his single eye,
Invoked my smile with a burnt offering,
Cold ashes. Children’s shoes.
The seventh angel lit a fire
In my eyes, with banners and torches swaying
Over all the whole world of Holy Wars. How it
Crackled under the heels of those legions of stooped heads!
The letters curled up and surrendered their thoughts
To the raging wind of muteness.
A drunken seaman heard with my eyes:
”All this can be yours. You already have
One foot in the Kingdom. ”
But my mouth became a cathedral,
The light glowed upon the altar of my tongue:

Stupefied, I heard singing 
Between heaven and earth,
And morningtime opened its blank book
And the pages filled with holy words.
The seventh angel tumbled down and downwards
Hissing, through the abyss of the sun.

He is resting now like a mountain.
He is rotting like October’s leaves in rain.
Six angels carry candles to my chambers of doubt.

And then the seventh one returns.

Translated from the Norwegian by Jennifer Lloyd



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