How It Happened

Just behind the large, yellow house where she lived with her family, and where I had once lived (rent-free) in a cold-in-the-winter room in the attic, lay a small, rocky hill. Basically, the hill was a large (as in enormous) rock. That's what it was, rock, with what vegetation—stubborn grass, nameless shrubs and equally nameless dry mosses—could find sustenance in crevices and scarce dirt. That was the hill that loomed behind her house.

It was a very old hill. Probably dumped there by retreating ice about twelve thousand years ago. Something like that.

I was there on a visit (another story altogether) and towards that evening, more on impulse than anything else, I stepped out for a stroll, a stroll that turned climb up the rocky slope of the hill in question that sulked behind her house.

The odd impulse that drove me outdoors had also brought pen and paper (a black notebook if I recall correctly), and once I reached the top of the rock, with a fair view of the yellow house's roof down below, along with other roofs even farther down, and of the road leading up to them, and of the fields that lay beyond, and of the much larger rock the other side of those fields, and of the forest beyond it, once up here, with a low-flying bird’s-eye view of the world, I found a suitable if rocky seat on this rock and sat down, brought out my notebook, and my pen, and wrote this:

Am I troll or human being?
I don't know.
But I do know that long before
life knew its origin
the opening pages in the novel
of a life had already been written.

A life of unknown origin,
though its death is
often dreamed by everyone. 

In this play of life and love
I’ve been given a small part,
but I’m not sure I can perform it.

The resolution of intrigue
was written wordlessly
and I've lost my power
to improvise.

I experienced a moment
when the eye of time blinked,
when the heart of time stood still.
My vision was spectacular,
but my senses incapable
of making it come true.

My dream was beautiful
but the night too short.

But my heart remembers
and it tortures my soul
with beats, beats, beats that like
the clear anguish of hindsight
desperately urge my action.

But if time has betrayed me,
has life then lived without me?

As the day drowns in darkness,
as a play dies with its last line,
my verse fades into silence.

Can a time that has ceased to exist
contain my anxiety?

Can a country I don't belong to
afford me peace?

Can a soul I have not touched
interpret my feelings?

Can a feeling I cannot control
make me stay?

Now, prior to this I had jotted down the occasional line, love poems and such, and I had both heard of, and pretended to read, Baudelaire and Rimbaud. In fact, I owned their complete works in French, in two beautiful, bible-papered books, a thicker one for Baudelaire, and thinner one for Rimbaud, which I always left on prominent display in my apartment for visitors to spot and wonder at. Of course, I didn’t speak a word of French.

Now, these lines are pretty much youthful tripe as poetry goes—I had no idea what I was saying—but the interesting thing, for me at least, is that I more or less watched the pen write it by itself, the words (which do sound better in the original Swedish, and this is more or less a verbatim translation with little to no attempt to straighten things out) simply fell into and then out of me. Once I had finished, and perhaps it took ten minutes, if that, I was a little amazed, and also a little charged up—though with a tinge of the artificial, for I knew that I was no poet, that this indeed was tripe; but nonetheless, whatever it was, it had arrived, and it had formed words.

It had written itself almost without my consent.

Yes, in a strange way, this is how my search began.

Yes, this is how it happened.

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