Poetry by Marie Lundquist

[One time her handbag opens]

One time her handbag opens up like a

revelation. Its contents consist of burning

flesh. Afterwards, when she snaps shut the lock,

a quiet crackling is heard as small flames

lick at the lining. It sounds pleasant. English.

A man with pale eyelashes emerges like

a genie from a bottle and lays another

log on the fire. After that, her dreams continue

to be as short-lived as trolley stops.

[Something unexpected]

Something unexpected can come at you with

strong force through an open window. Something

that no one foresaw. A boathook or a

tool meant for a completely different use.

Sometimes it can be a human being. We have

much to learn from music. One must

keep playing as if nothing had happened.

[Perhaps, there’s still a small chance]

Perhaps there’s still a small chance

that a man, an impresario that is, will

come forward and throw himself over you

like a quick flare. Like a blush.

Perhaps there are still wolves, gray as mittens,

who sharpen their eyeteeth on grindstones

so the shavings gleam like wedding rings in the grass.

Perhaps there are still smoke-jumpers, real

men named Snake or Bear, who bend low

with all their heavy equipment, just to soothe

small children. Especially boys.

[The smallest of my brothers]

The smallest of my brothers will bring me

back to our first hiding places.

Beneath them, in the deepest holes,

are the orange seeds that forgetfulness poked

down into the earth. To get them to grow

you must lie down pressed tight against

the loam and become an earth angel. To wait

in this way is also a blessed state.

[He who doesn’t want to live]

He who doesn’t want to live lies stretched out

on the tracks. Quickly and gently he’s lifted up

and laid down on the platform. His four benefactors

stand around him with bowed heads.

Together, they look like a fairytale rose hedge.

The weak one glows with a pulsing flame.

They turn their eyes so as not to be blinded.

[First, she must make a clean break]

First, she must make a clean break. Renounce everything.

Shave the head, wipe off the clothes. Fulfill

other people’s dreams, take on their illnesses. Unite

those who belong together, separate those who should be apart.

Unstick those fixed in their ways, get the lame to gallop,

raise the curtains for the blind and play telephone

with the deaf. Nothing could save her. The indispensable ones

must die. The Evangelists knew this already.

[Waited a whole winter]

Waited a whole winter for someone

who was taller than me to bend

down over me and whisper something

in confidence. A father maybe, or

a horse looking for sugar.

[You sleep five floors]

You sleep five floors above the street.

Where the town ends and the snow begins.

On your right side your son sleeps.

He turns his head to the east and

grows. The whole night he grows.

Uninterrupted and very slowly.

[My breasts are sheer]

My breasts are sheer as January light.

You place your hands on my hips.

Wind up the clock until it starts to tick.

[A woman can feel]

A woman can feel wondrously at home

with a married man’s body. His ears are warm and

full of creases and hollows like a well-used

overcoat. His scrotum can seem old and worn

but is soft as leather when it’s used up. He wears

no rings because his fingers can’t bear any

shackles and his promises are so thin you can read

the newspaper through them. Maybe it’s so, that

the truest familial feelings can only arise in a family

other than your own.


Marie Lundquist

Marie Lundquist, born in 1950 and residing in Stockholm, is a poet, translator, and dramatist. She is the author of 11 books of poetry, prose, and essays; she has written two radio plays and translated several plays for the largest Swedish theaters. She also writes essays and critiques of photography exhibitions. In addition to writing and translating, she has worked for many years as a librarian and a teacher. Lundquist has received numerous awards and honors, including Sveriges Radios Lyrikpris (2002), stipendium from the Svenska Akademien (2007), De Nios Lyrikpris (2008), and the Aspenströmpriset (2015).

Her books have been translated into Dutch, French, Arabic, Latvian, Polish, Norwegian, and Persian. Individual works published in journals or anthologies have been translated into Norwegian, Danish, Polish, English, German, Spanish, Russian, Estonian, Lithuanian, Greek, Italian, and Chinese. The book from which the featured poems are taken, Jag går runt och samlar in min trädgård för natten, was translated into Dutch in 2001 and distributed in the Netherlands and Belgium. In 2017, a major Norwegian press published a translation of selected poems from Lundquist's first three books. The influential Norwegian paper Morgonbladet published an in-depth and favorable review of this new translation.

Kristina Andersson Bicher

Kristina Andersson Bicher is a Swedish-American poet, translator, and essayist whose work has appeared in Denver Quarterly, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Ploughshares, Narrative, Barrow Street, The Atlantic, and others. She earned degrees from Harvard University and Sarah Lawrence College. Her chapbook Just Now Alive was published as a contest finalist in 2014 in the New Women’s Voices Series. Her Swedish poetry translations have been published in the Harvard Review and Tupelo Quarterly. Her work has been nominated for various prizes, including the Pushcart, and she was selected to attend the Bread Loaf Translators Conference.

Copyright (c) Marie Lundquist, 1992. English translation copyright (c) Kristina Andersson Bicher, 2019.