“she pictures Mom in a gym suit. The gym suit is shiny and blue, and Mom’s feet move swiftly; she’s the star of the team. She can do a kick split and spin like a top. She’s so stunning that Dad can’t take his eyes of her. No way he’d ever get enough of watching a girl like that. Dad takes a running start, he takes a running start and streaks through the gym, his big hands stretching out before him. He wants to get over to where Mom is and he does. He comes within reach of the girl in the shining outfit. She looks like a kingfisher, he thinks, and kingfishers are rare. They screech as they fly through the air like arrow shafts, and Mom screeches too when Dad’s red hands grasp her about the waist. Then she sinks down; he is gravity itself. “You’ve got strong arms,” she tells him.”From Dorte Nors wonderful novel, Mirror, Shoulder, Signal
There’s a good review of it (and more about Dorte Nors) here
I get softer as I get older. The oddest things bring a lump to my throat: a family story on the Antiques Roadshow, or watching some inspired teenager playing their heart out on the BBC Young Musician of the Year.
Poems? Much less often, I find. However powerful they are, the effect is usually too complex for such a direct response, however terrible the subject.
This poem is the exception. I came across it in the fabulous new Bloodaxe Anthology celebrating 50 years of Modern Poetry in Translation – Centres of Cataclysm. I hadn’t read far into the volume before finding this from Olga Berggolts.
Late One Melancholy February Night (for Galina)
Late one melancholy February night
a friend knocked at my door:
‘Olga, I’ve just buried my son!
I cannot cry out, cannot even sigh.
Tell me, don’t hide anything –
you yourself have lost children –
will the tears come soon,
will this terrible darkness lighten?
All night I spoke with my friend,
Soothing her, comforting her.
So my grief was turned to good use,
my inconsolable grief.
Translated from the Russian by Daniel Weissbort