Right now I’m on a road trip, driving from California to Minnesota. Yesterday I hiked in Zion National Park and then drove for many hours through unfamiliar Utah mountains. These were mountains that seemed to demand silence, so I turned off the music and contemplated them, listening to what they had to say to me, which was something along the lines of why don’t you live here, where you could be silent most of the time and no one would care, no one would notice, because all there are here are mountains and desert and vastness. I was 18 the first time the west drew me to itself, and I wish I had a whole other lifetime to see what life would be like in this unearthly land. This poem –that line Our life has a sister vessel which plies another route– is what the west feels like to me.
The Blue House, a prose poem by Tomas Transtromer, trans. Goran Malmqvist
It is night with glaring sunshine. I stand and look towards my house with its misty blue walls. As though I were recently dead and saw the house from a new angle.
It has stood for more than eighty summers. Its timber has been impregnated, four times with joy and three times with sorrow. When someone who has lived in the house dies it is repainted. The dead person paints it himself, without a brush, from the inside.
On the other side is open terrain. Formerly a garden, now wilderness. A still surf of weed, pagodas of weed, an unfurling body of text, Upanishades of weed, a Viking fleet of weed, dragon heads, lances, an empire of weed.
Above the overgrown garden flutters the shadow of a boomerang, thrown again and again. It is related to someone who lived in the house long before my time. Almost a child. An impulse issues from him, a thought, a thought of will: “create. . .draw. ..” In order to escape his destiny in time.
The house resembles a child’s drawing. A deputizing childishness which grew forth because someone prematurely renounced the charge of being a child. Open the doors, enter! Inside unrest dwells in the ceiling and peace in the walls. Above the bed there hangs an amateur painting representing a ship with seventeen sails, rough sea and a wind which the gilded frame cannot subdue.
It is always so early in here, it is before the crossroads, before the irrevocable choices. I am grateful for this life! And yet I miss the alternatives. All sketches wish to be real.
A motor far out on the water extends the horizon of the summer night. Both joy and sorrow swell in the magnifying glass of the dew. We do not actually know it, but we sense it: our life has a sister vessel which plies an entirely different route. While the sun burns behind the islands.
For more information on Tomas Transtromer, please click here.