I had almost fallen asleep
when a black feeling
leaped in among the white ones
that were just starting to take shape.
It was as violent as an earthquake
but more permanent.
Everything stiffened. Everything cracked.
My life turned into a fresco.
A thousand-year imprisonment
lay behind me
and I could move myself again.
What does it matter that you’re lying
in another person’s arms?
I have to leave anyway.
Outside of that dark,musty space
water flows in sunlight.
The bright woods go out to the sea
and at night
the young flirt on the bridges.
Tonight my sleep will be as light
as the shadow
of a white stone on the bottom.
Henrik Nordbrandt has published more than twenty volumes of poetry and is considered one of the leading contemporary Danish poets. In 2001 he received the Nordic Prize, one of many honors awarded to his work. Nordbrandt currently lives in Turkey. (updated 2005)
Thom Satterlee translated, from the Danish, The Hangman’s Lament: Poems of Henrik Nordbrandt (Green Integer, 2003) and two collections of the poet Per Aage Brandt: These Hands (HOST, 2011) and If I Were a Suicide Bomber & Other Verses (Open Letter, 2017). His individual translations have appeared in Seneca Review, Prairie Schooner, AGNI, The Literary Review, and elsewhere. (updated 10/2018)