In the evening darkness in a place outside New York, an outlook point
where one single glance will encompass the homes of eight
The giant city over there is a long shimmering drift, a spiral galaxy
seen from the side.
Within the galaxy coffee-cups are pushed across the counter, the
shop-windows beg from passers-by, a flurry of shoes that leave
The climbing fire escapes, the lift doors that glide shut, behind doors
with police locks a perpetual seethe of voices.
Slouched bodies doze in subway coaches, the hurtling catacombs.
I know too – without statistics – that right now Schubert is being played
in some room over there and that for someone the notes are
more real than all the rest.
The endless expanses of the human brain are crumpled to the size
of a fist.
In April the swallow returns to last year’s nest under the guttering of
this very barn in this very parish.
She flies from Transvaal, passes the equator, flies for six weeks over
two continents, makes for precisely this vanishing dot in the land-mass.
And the man who catches the signals from a whole life in a few ordinary
chords for five strings,
who makes a river flow through the eye of a needle,
is a stout young gentleman from Vienna known to his friends as `The
Mushroom,’ who slept with his glasses on
and stood at his writing desk punctually of a morning.
And then the wonderful centipedes of his manuscript were set in
The string quintet is playing. I walk home through warm forests with
The ground springy under me,
curl up like an embryo, fall asleep, roll weightless into the future,
suddenly feel that the plants have thoughts.
So much we have to trust, simply to live through our daily day without
Sinking through the earth!
Trust the piled snow clinging to the mountain slope above the village.
Trust the promises of silence and the smile of understanding, trust
that the accident telegram isn’t for us and that the sudden
axe-blow from within won’t come.
Trust the axles that carry us on the highway in the middle of the three
hundred times life-size bee swarm of steel.
But none of that is really worth our confidence.
The five strings say we can trust something else. And they keep us
company part of the way there.
As when the time-switch clicks off in the stairwell and the fingers –
trustingly – follow the blind handrail that finds its way in the
We squeeze together at the piano and play with four hands in F minor,
two coachmen on the same coach, it looks a little ridiculous.
The hands seem to be moving resonant weights to and fro, as if we
were tampering with the counterweights
in an effort to disturb the great scale arm’s terrible balance: joy and
suffering weighing exactly the same.
Annie said, `This music is so heroic,’ and she’s right.
But those whose eyes enviously follow men of action, who secretly
despise themselves for not being murderers,
don’t recognize themselves here,
and the many who buy and sell people and believe that everyone can
be bought, don’t recognize themselves here.
Not their music. The long melody that remains itself in all its
transformations, sometimes glittering and pliant, sometimes
rugged and strong, snail-track and steel wire.
The perpetual humming that follows us — now –
(Tomas Tranströmer is a Swedish poet and the winner of the 2011 Nobel Prize in literature.)