August Nordenskiöld — Gustav the Third’s Alchemist
Was it chance’s grace, a frostbitten fable about goodness?
Backlight filled the bridge’s arch from below. A chestnut slept in
The mountains peaceful. The times permeated each other.
I flowed over my banks, had no shore to keep to.
Light doesn’t see into darkness. Mosquitoes flew high over the
The nightingale sang in its gloom when I went to meet the
A dove’s neck feather blew into the kitchen where I was grinding
with a cave bear’s canine. The insects screeched in the fire. The
opposite is the sublime, which cannot be rendered, therefore not
In the constellations I read forgotten abbreviations.
The churchyard smelled of smoke from a fire. The sky was melted
O deceptive depth of mirrors, o infamy and collapse!
I laid out how the darkness that everything earthly takes part in
becomes knowable first when it resembles air and then
visible under name of water or earth.
Fell into disgrace at the upper school assembly when I explained
how an offspring of the invisible light bathes in five-fold
distilled liquid, in the Quintessence of all highness’ power.
Went out downhearted to the thoughts. White-haired, the grass stood,
the drinker’s tongue. Each feeling’s sweetness smothered by the soul’s
colleagues’ torpor and my clamorous disciples. Night-long quicksilver
Fluid red earth, brought to rest, fireproof with three essentials –
The Breath of something tough and elastic, the Water of a moist
the Blood of a fatty coagulant – becomes one Fatness shining in the
The sauna was heated January 11, 1787. The sublimations all the more
saw a fig tree, a globe. Smell of bread and eggs. Innocentia.
‘The philosophical fire’ burned forth in the gold a whitish blackness.
An unknown painter lingered among us. Even the stones have their ear
But your eyes, my king, are as blind as cultured pearls.
The truth is the tears that make my writing paper buckle.
Dying is like taking a final step into the air.
The paralysis lets go. Time stops climbing
like a mad ape on your back.
The present is the windowpane between dream and memory.
travels a lightray bent by Einstein. We exchange passion for
the memory of passion. Death is not the threat. But the unlived is.
Oarlocks creak on a still body of water. Unseen
a row boat approaches. No wake, no reflection.
Transparent, it glides through everything that has been lost.
One evening with an unexpected power failure. An important page
I can’t read is scanned by a domesticated insect.
The stars, the Shona say, are the eyes of the dead.
The windshield wiper goes slower than before.
I lean nearer to the glass to see.
If you could choose your death as you choose a lane to drive in.
The day has an icy edge of dismissal.
The exit is evident: not justice, not mercy.
Yet I don’t believe that it was just a dream.
A moment’s light, then an undisturbed darkness.
Soon we are dispersed. The stone returns to the fire.
Nothing ends, though everything is discontinued.
When she died, her photo faded and a twined thread was seen blowing
through the window. An ink bottle screwed tight to have for the trip
began to leak. Seed cases opened for an urgent wind.
Final Departure Lounge: apertif with tired truths.
Waitress with hectic red cheeks. An ape-like waiter,
vacuum dried variant of the undersigned, comes with the bill.
Old men who play chess seldom take their eyes from the board.
Their features tighten like before a lesson learned by heart.
Death leans imperceptibly over them. But they don’t have time.
Dead friends are like fish, cross-striped in the morning light,
in a second swallowed up by the shadow. Potsherds remain
in dry river beds, the burned dung, coins in new plowed fields.
Everything we’ve lost during the course of life vanishes in the big
the bandy ball, the ring, the book with addresses. We are united there
finally with everything we’ve lost. Others take over what we’ve saved.
I think I’ve been dead for a year, but still here like a poplar seed
in the house’s chinks to cause an imperceptible settling. She bakes
bread for someone else. Everything moves on, they don’t expect
Just when the party’s over, we get to know the names of the guests.
Just when the doors have been closed, we see the rooms expand.
When all the sounds have been turned down, we hear the
Like when you let go of a load of wood, and pull off an icy glove.
The stone table’s slab wears even more, the erogenous zones shrink.
But the alphabet still glows, like asteroids over the expanses of snow.