Sunday, March 15, 2015

Water, Sand and Stone

Sometimes it is important to look down.
This was on the beach of my beloved Monterey Bay.


We fished up the Atlantic Cable one day between the Barbadoes and the Tortugas, 
held up our lanterns 
and put some rubber over the wound in its back, 
latitude 15 degrees north, longitude 61 degrees west. 
When we laid our ear down to the gnawed place 
we could hear something humming inside the cable. 

"It's some millionaires in Montreal and St John 
talking over the price of Cuban sugar, and ways to
reduce our wages", one of us said. 

For a long time we stood there thinking, in a circle of lanterns, 
we're all patient cable fishermen, 
then we let the coated cable fall back 
to its place in the sea. 

Harry Edmund Martinson

Translated from the Swedish by Robert Bly

Sometimes it pays to look around, also. The life story of Harry Martinson, whom I had not noticed before I found him in the book of Robert Bly's translations, The Winged Energy of Delight (available on Kindle) is fascinating and very sad. After the death of his parents, he became a foster child. There's a word for that in Swedish, Kommunalbarn! He was awarded the Nobel Prize jointly with another person who was on the awards committee, as he was. Others considered that year were Graham Greene, Saul Bellow and Vladimir Nabokov; the choice was controversial. He was born in 1904, and thus belonged to the generation of my parents. He accomplished his suicide in 1978 with a pair of scissors. I like his poems in the Bly book very much and have ordered what is available in translation. His gravestone can be seen at

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