Excerpts from Anne


It’s dark in here.

I see clearer now. Thin afternoon light from a square

window high on the wall, a line across the cracked

floorboards. Soft quiver of dust there between light and darkness.

Hanging from the ceiling; large blankets of coarse wool. Dry tingling in the tips of

my fingers when I touch them.


Next to the door a brown uniform jacket with buttons turning green, I see

sleeves worn thin, full of darker spots.

Smell of leather and worn clothes as I walk across the floor. Human clothing.

Against the wall a small brown-painted chest. When the lid swings up towards the

wall, fine rust sprinkles from the hinges. Uneven letters have been

cut with a knife underneath the lid.

Dreng Salmondsen. Almost unreadable in the half darkness. Underneath linen

shirts and clothes of dark wool there’s a small cardboard box. The lid is smooth

and white, the bottom is red. A weak sweet smell when the lid comes off, almost

nothing. I turn, into the line of light.


Two pieces of paper from a calendar.

Twelfth of May Fifth of October

Small comb of matte metal

Blue embroidered letters on linen fabric: Jesus

Brown photograph of a woman with a big mouth

For Anne from Hege

Spoon with dark lines

When I walk up the steep stairway, mild air on my skin. A weak sound

escapes the wood with each step.

Out there eyes are being filled with pale sun. I lean against the wall, and feel

blood pulsing in my palms. My blood, an even weak rhythm.

March, snow is wet.

Light is all around the grey corners of the house.



From the bed I see the moon through uneven

glass windows,

Moon with unmoving face.

Shiny matte

and a thin ring around it.

The wind has gone quiet in the trees, in the tall lark,

in low bushes by the stone fence.

Somewhere in the darkness; red berries under

moist leaves.


I think of narrow men and pale children



The boat glides out from land, out from the river bank where heather grows high.

In hazy air a young man is making his way over shiny water. Headlands lie in

shadow, water is silver.

Beyond the cape he stands still in the boat, the piece of string from his hands a

matte stripe.

There man and boat are almost one with water and light, see-through

and shaking with big holes of silver.

As he gets close to the other side, he disappears from my eyes.


The smell of grass that falls under the scythe,

and a light cloud of yellow dust with each

stroke. Men in a line, white

shirts and pants of homespun black wool.

They move evenly forwards,

long, round movements singing in their bodies.

Underneath wide hats the face I know.

When I lie on my back in the grass,

heat collects and overpowers.

Hege, sister, thin in a blue dress, stands

on the hill and calls:

Anne, come.



On top of the hill

Two men under low clouds

Clear faces in the wind, clear eyes

And a thin flute, the sound over dry forest earth

Breath against silver



Five in the morning. It’s getting light outside.

Still all sounds are indistinct and distant, behind a film of wax. I feel

warmth from my own body, feel the heaviness in me. Human.

A warm body.

Sometimes I think there’s a spiral twisting deep into the earth, without

restraint, almost unnoticeably it twists around. Twists me around, when I lie

on my back with my eyes closed.


When I sit halfway up, I look out into the grey

morning. Out there the gate is open in the rain.

It’s getting light. The clock shows five, and I can’t sleep.



Blood streams down on thick hardwood boards, out from the open sheep’s

stomach. Blood on white wool. Red steaming stomach, white smooth membrane

over all that meat. Meat

meat. Food for humans, for me. Red warm. Hide me

The sheep’s eyes twitch long after the strike, flies are crawling over the inversed

eyeball, they sew themselves to it, they live.

Tongue out between short teeth. Legs strangely strained and stiff.

Torjus has warm wet hands, thin blood-water streams down and

blends with the mud around his boots.

I stand and feel my body warm in the wind,

my pulse beating in my temples.

They lead the last sheep out.


Sunday afternoon.

Hymns that taste of limestone and white altar table cloths.

Afterwards empty for a long time. Walk around with bare

feet, in a room of wide organ pipes and

vibrating old voices.


The weather vane is pointing north, unmoving.


The clock on the wall continues with even dry snaps.

On the table a black insect,

round and round in little circles.



Walk on roads when shingle is grey and wet.

Swallows dipping down from the sky,

low over wet fields.

Look at my own hands. See small muscles

move, and hair like down against light.

Can’t stand those hands. They’re a little big,

and mine.

Down on the hills a man is plowing in the rain.




Wind blows through days, nights.

Wind and light in the maple tree when I awake.

Dark wind in the evening.

Float sleeping on streams of wind over a wide night.

Shiny see-through skin under my eyes in the mirror,

dry skin with little cracks in my palms.

Little boys stand on ropes and feel the wind

breathe, feel it lifting wide shirts. They tread easily,

with long steps, and roll around in the grass.


When I open the door, wind blows against my face,

I walk with short quick breaths. Down on the plains

I have to bend forwards and button the wool jacket

high in my throat.


Man is born of Woman, is of few days, and full of Trouble. He cometh forth like

a Flower, and is cut down: he fleeth also as a Shadow, and continueth not. For now

thou numberest my Steps: dost thou not watch over my sin? The Waters wear the

Stones: thou washest away the things which grow out of the dust of the Earth; and

thou destroyest the Hope of Man.

Job. Lean shadow. I sat by your side in the ashes, but you didn’t see me.



I walk over the mire, little bubbles escape the mud in between

patches of moss. Down there short light-red plants. Juicy stems and threads with

rows of sticky drops, clear in the light, they stick to the skin when

you touch them. If you bend down, you see flies stuck there. Dry shells

of flies. Brown water into my shoes now. My hair frizzes in the

humid air.

Slide through the landscape, slide in behind walls, tired.

Days are tightening around my body.

Hollow days of lye, of ash.


A dry cough is tearing at my chest, chasing black dots in front of my eyes.

Every so often I have to sit and rest my forehead in my hands.

Afterwards breaths like long knives in there.

Sometimes I walk out under the maple when it starts.

It has happened that I’ve lied down flat in the grass.

It has happened that I’ve tasted salt in my mouth.



Deep hollow spots between tendons on top of my hand. Every day deeper, a

little deeper. Skin tight over hips, bones protrude clearly, hard and

pointed. When the cough tears, I think the bones are coming out, digging their way

through the membrane of skin. I put my hands over my chest and hold on.

Close my eyes and hold, as I’m coughing up something with foaming

light red stripes. Coming from down there. From me.

The night brings burning cheeks, drives a great unrest through the body, long

stakes of fire and ice, holding me to the bed and burning me. Every night.

Icefrost in the fire. My eyelids close.



They say I have to go away. They turn away, and say I will be

healthy. They say calm, clear pure air, sunshine, white beds, help, medicine,

invigorating baths.

They say it will be good. Soon.

They pack clothing in a box, they come to get me, keep me steady, help me

into the carriage. They drive me off. Early morning, they stand there

and watch as I leave. April morning. I hold my head back

and hold on tight to the seat. I’m going away.



Tired, unquenchable, taut across a blanket of warm wool.

Jitter like heavy fire back and forth through my body, burns me dry.

The tall clock ticks, drives pieces of metal into unmoving

arms, leaves sharp grains of marble under my eyelids.

Weight of my head against soft down, soon everything must tear. Fall soon.

Streams of hot milk in my limbs, heavier than sea and mountain.

Sleep, right through a dense winter, wake up on the other side, open my eyes

and walk out warm into melting snow.



Her forehead is cold and wet. She lies with her eyes closed, opens them sometimes,

and then immediately closes them. Shiny eyes. Sharp twitches

through her body, you see muscles underneath thin skin, see them

stay taut a while, and quiver. Breathing is shorter now, and heavier, interrupted by

coughs. Coughs that drive blood out to the edges of her mouth. She is given half a

glass of water in which there is half a teaspoon of kitchen salt, then ice cold milk,

spoon by spoon.



. . . . Warm holes in my mouth . . . . Horselights . . . . Dead

men in red hats . . . . Summer-rain . . . . Winter

organ . . . . O MY SOUL IT WANDERS . . . . Bleeding

from the butter . . . . Fiddles twisted hands . . . .

Lazarus without peace . . . . in the wilderness . . . . AMONG THE


Face will soon form big cracks

Little men with drums and whistles

are moving now



The next day the room is washed with concentrated green soap water, with

ammonium chloride added to remove the bad smell that has set in the walls. It

smells like wet wood for a long time, clean wood and green soap.


Windows stay open a few more days, in strong eastern wind.



Paal-Helge Haugen

Paal-Helge Haugen is a Norwegian lyricist, novelist, dramatist, and children's writer. Haugen was born in Valle, Setesdal. He made his literary debut with Blad frå ein austleg hage [Leaves from an eastern garden] in 1965, a translation of Japanese haiku poems. It was followed in 1967 by På botnen av ein mørk sommar [At the bottom of a dark summer], an adaptation of Chinese poems and his first collection of original poetry. Studies in film and literature took him to the United States in 1971. From 1973 to 1978, he taught creative writing in Norway. Since 1967, Haugen has published eighteen volumes of poetry, including two volumes of selected poems and one of collected poems.

Julia Johanne Tolo

Julia Johanne Tolo is from Oslo, Norway. She earned her BA in literature from The New School and has worked as a freelance translator since 2013. She is the author of the chapbook August, and the snow has just melted (Bottlecap Press), and she has had work published in Slice, The Seventh Wave, Ghost City Review, Black and Blue Writing, Belladonna* chaplet 189, and other places. She is currently studying for her MFA in poetry and translation from Queens College.

Anne. Copyright (c) Det Norske Samlaget, 1968. English translation copyright (c) Julia Johanne Tolo, 2017.