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Poetry

Prelude

By Tomas Tranströmer
Translated from Swedish by Rika Lesser

Waking up is a jump, a skydive from the dream.
Free of the smothering whirl the traveler
sinks toward morning’s green zone.
Things start to flare. He perceives—in the trembling lark’s
position—the mighty tree-root systems’
underground swinging lamps. But standing
above—in tropical profusion—is verdure, with
upraised arms, listening
to the rhythm of an invisible pumping station. And he
sinks toward summer, is lowered
into its blinding crater, down
through shafts of ages green with damp
quaking under the turbine of the sun. So ceases
this vertical flight through the moment, and the wings spread out
into the osprey’s repose over streaming water.
The Bronze Age trumpet’s
tone of exile
hovers over bottomlessness.

In the first hours of day consciousness can embrace the world
just as the hand grasps a sun-warm stone.
The traveler stands under the tree. After
the plunge through death’s whirling vortex, will
a great light unfurl over his head?

Translation of “Preludium.” First published in 17 Dikter (Stockholm, 1954). By arrangement with the author. Translation copyright 2007 by Rika Lesser. All rights reserved.

English

Waking up is a jump, a skydive from the dream.
Free of the smothering whirl the traveler
sinks toward morning’s green zone.
Things start to flare. He perceives—in the trembling lark’s
position—the mighty tree-root systems’
underground swinging lamps. But standing
above—in tropical profusion—is verdure, with
upraised arms, listening
to the rhythm of an invisible pumping station. And he
sinks toward summer, is lowered
into its blinding crater, down
through shafts of ages green with damp
quaking under the turbine of the sun. So ceases
this vertical flight through the moment, and the wings spread out
into the osprey’s repose over streaming water.
The Bronze Age trumpet’s
tone of exile
hovers over bottomlessness.

In the first hours of day consciousness can embrace the world
just as the hand grasps a sun-warm stone.
The traveler stands under the tree. After
the plunge through death’s whirling vortex, will
a great light unfurl over his head?

Translation of “Preludium.” First published in 17 Dikter (Stockholm, 1954). By arrangement with the author. Translation copyright 2007 by Rika Lesser. All rights reserved.

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