a true history

This is a true history
of me and my dog, my cat,
my first big love. I don’t know.
But it’s a true story, and
the rock against which it’s told is hard,
brittle, eroded. The waves crash in.
Love seems more powerless
than anything else. On that
the history touches, on that
and on something that slipped by unnoticed.
This story, told also against metal
and iron, is sharp and bitter,
salty like nickel: coins that roll
in my mouth. You could make money
from this story, it could have people weeping
in the pews.
(So let us meet at the water’s surface.)

The rock’s reaction is different.
The waves have dashed themselves against it
so often that it’s no longer capable
of feeling guilt. A question of survival—
add that to the rest. We fight
for our lives. But now it’s time
for the story of my dog
that died of sorrow. It died quietly
in a two-room flat in a Swedish town
with few inhabitants. It looked out the window
and lay down to die. And that’s what happened.
The history of my cat is a whole other thing.
It was run over by a truck
without a license plate. It looked around
and died. My first big love
can hardly be described better: it was
two stories told at the same time,
a sheet torn in two, a hint of sorrow….

And the waves crash. Yet another truth
rolls up out of the sea and smashes
across the rock; it’s followed by
another, and another. There is so little
that is truly unique.
There is nothing that is unique.
There’s only one thing in the world
and it’s common.
This is the story of that one thing
that’s common. This is the story
of how life shrinks to something
that fits in a pants pocket.
This is the story of how death
slips into that same pocket. The story
has been told. It’s finished.
(So let us meet at the water’s surface.)

Jan Sjölund


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