Selected Poems from Antecedentia

Page 7:

You are without yourself, like one sleepless or exhausted. It’s night, soon to be morning. You sit with an old globe in your lap. You spin and stop it with your index finger. Spinning and stopping. Outdated, quaint, with forsaken borders, vanished place names, what came before, some world or other

Page 8:

I look for you as if you could see me the way you would have seen me if I had seen you seeing me. Seen: a deserted place emptied of sound. Seen by you by the light of you.

Page 9:

Howard Hughes stumbles half naked through the streets of Managua during the earthquake the day before Christmas 1972 on his way from this hotel to the private jet with no thought for the dying and the dead I read in Cardenal’s poem by the drone of the air conditioner and the light of the bedside lamp in room 515 with plenty of liquor and cigarettes. The city rests on seven fault lines and every time I try to think of you and me pictures crash down from the walls the blood rushes into the feet of another sick millionaire with no thought for the dying

Page 10:

Sometimes I imagine I’m sitting in an airport down for the count with jetlag and days of insomnia, staring at the other travelers when I catch sight of you: you’ve gone back to your job as a translator for Northwest Orient. You haven’t tried to forget me. You’ve answered my letters. You take my hand and we walk slowly around Gentofte Sø, famous for its abundant birdlife.

Page 11:

Over the Andes in sunlight the plane’s cabin is sprayed with perfume. Santiago’s street vendors offer tree shaped air fresheners in every color. In the taxi heading up Maridalsveien, Østfold’s most common spruce is green as usual. Your eyes aren’t always this black. I told you that those air fresheners, liquor and automatic transmission make me puke. Pulvis et umbra sumis. In the taxi coming back from the Santo Domingo Prison, several people cried.

Page 16:

My clock also ticks backwards towards the night. Towards the nights’ keeping watch over the bed. If the heart grows too big my alarm will also be unsecured, my hands will also join in. My clock has also become disjointed. My life is also action. Someone awake above the drawing of breath. A quail in the chest. A pillow.

Page 32:

Your rounded body, your one-eyed father in the secret police. The note your mother found: Will I get pregnant if I swallow? Later, a fortune tells you you’ll never be happy (not you either). For example your Courtney Love t-shirt, your face and your voice when you meet for example people who’ve studied literary theory. For example the sound you make when you’re lonely. Dry, nasal and toneless. The sand martin’s cry in flight, the prime minister’s visions

Page 48:

The morning after it’s maybe September 1995 and we’re possibly standing on the beach southwest of Managua, looking towards Mururoa and Fangataufa as far as the eye can see. I tell you about the tiger with cancer in the Besançon Zoo, the golden eagle on the short chain, the same heat there as here. I think of air, the way it hits us and settles on us and around us and in us

Page 49:

When you called me late at night I tried to say something important whatever that might have been. But you held the receiver outside the booth so I would hear the ocean and the few coins you had lasted only for two seconds worth of superhuman rushing in the distance. I remember standing by the phone for a while before going to the kitchen and pressing a cold milk carton to my forehead. The last letter arrived several months ago and contained only a meticulously transcribed conversation with a millionaire’s daughter about the moon


Niels Fredrik Dahl

Niels Fredrik Dahl, born in 1957, is one of Norway’s most well-known authors of prose, poetry, and drama. His international breakthrough came in 2002 with his second novel, På vei til en venn, which received the Norwegian Brageprize and was sold to several countries, including Germany, Italy, France, and the Netherlands. Dahl has since published two more novels: I fjor sommer (2003) and Herre (2009). His latest work is the critically acclaimed collection of poetry Vi har aldri vært her før.

Karen Havelin

Karen Havelin is a writer and translator from Bergen, Norway. She attended Skrivekunst-akademiet i Hordaland, and has a bachelor’s degree in French, literature, and gender studies from the University of Bergen and University of Paris, Sorbonne. She completed her MFA in fiction from Columbia University in May 2013 and is currently working on a novel. Her poems in Norwegian have been published in Norwegian literary magazines, and her fiction, nonfiction, and translations in English have been published online by Narrative Northeast, Lunch Ticket, The Brooklyn Quarterly, and Words without Borders.

Antecedentia. Copyright (c) Tiden Forlag, 1995. English translation copyright (c) Karen Havelin, 2015.