from Roman Nights

Martin Glaz Serup


Minced frozen meat looks awful
it looks like something living
which has been butchered
and systematically cut up and frozen
like an image of itself

like a man
creates an image of him

Existence is tautological and easily seen through
therefore I have to return to poetry’s more lyrical forms
they are a gainsaying, of what, the world
means nothing
when you say it
the ink cartridge is new, but the metaphor is old
therefore I have to return to poetry’s more epic forms
they tell me something I couldn’t have told myself

I saw the Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko
in Nicaragua once, an old man, wild
on a stage, the whole room was a stage for him
that’s where he’ll die, in the middle of a reading, in the middle of a poem
in a colourful shirt, that’s what it’s like to have no health insurance
no pension
personally I’m in doubt about what one can conclude from that
personally it’s still clearer to me
that without private insurance
without a well-paid job, without owning a house as an investment
without a car
I can drive my children to casualty in
when they’re ill
without good personal contacts, without favours between friends
I’m in a bad way, we’re in a bad way
it looks like politics

In the cemetery where my mother lies buried
an old man sat on a bench by her grave yesterday
he looked like a corpse, a suicide
but he was alive
just as the old woman on her knees in front of him was alive
around them the grieving with watering cans, alive
the woman threw up from time to time, we could hear her sounds
on the way to the guards, what guards
there must be guards at the cemetery’s office

I am my dead mother
and even in death I’m simultaneously outraged and excited
but if I had been alive the experience would have ruined me for a long time
I feel like the man on the bench with my girlfriend
so naughty
I think the grieving, they’re me too
we are tired and leaky
the wind whistles, as though it had a leak
something clatters inside us, as though we were as though we were as though
we were metal buckets
someone were carrying, as though we were filled with stones

I am the dead in their graves
I think that if I could see them from here
the cemetery’s trees would be black
the cemetery dark
and on the mountainside the animals’ bells would sparkle all night
or the lights of the flats would
prick a little in the dark

Everyone around me has started to look old
the children would rather be with their mother
or father, never where they are
it makes you sad
so in that way we’re the same then
all through life
always restless, split, never where we are
as if that would have been more fun

My body sags so pathetically in the mirror
I think that he who looks at that body, that’s me too
suddenly it’s difficult to keep your weight up
that too, strange problems and many visits to the doctor
then that’s a place you frequent, you know, you greet
the only thing that works at the moment is a momentary ejaculation
there you can be, for a moment

My mother always hurt herself, partly, I suppose, self-inflicted
my mother was always badly treated, because she herself had no strength
and a person who has no strength can’t be helped
you shouldn’t ask others for help, help makes you weak
and you don’t want to help a person who isn’t strong
my mother is dead, but the past isn’t dead
as William Faulkner says, it isn’t even the past
How is it abuse to have sex on a stranger’s grave
what has it got to do with my mother
what confuses people is the use of personal pronouns
and questions, they think they have to answer them
yesterday two people had sex on her grave
many were sad about it
you can get help from the guards, but help makes you weak
I should have acted myself
what should I have done
I should have beaten them
it looks like strength
it looks like politics
to see it as strength

What it is possible to think
What it is possible to feel
What it’s okay to take into your own hands

I’ve never seen the like of it

It’s seven o’clock, it’s morning, I’m hungry, I’m tired, I feel
that I’m dirty
that I should wash
that a bath would help
everything, we have so many little helpers
they get us through
the day, the days, greatest is sleep, the merciful
greatest is a momentary ejaculation
it’s seven, it’s morning, in a minute the day will start
it’s a repetition, in a minute the day will start

I used to fantasise about winning a million
now I fantasise about rectal cancer
the compassion, the sudden prioritising, the dramatic
I imagine as undramatic
there’s something we have to talk about, it’s important, the doctors say
there’s nothing to be seen now, but later, once the medicine, you can never tell
I used to dream of emptying a toy shop
in ten minutes, now a dream of, no—

A man leaves a cemetery on Amager
he gets into his car, he drives off
the viewpoint is exterior, away, away
that man in that car, I think: I’m him too
the car is its own space, like the grave, a few extra square metres
to prolong life with
the movement away
is in itself a metaphor for something
like death
but not for the one who’s moving
not for the one who dies, no—

Death is an image of death
the movement of movement
first I think:
death, it’s also me
and then I think:


The year is about to disappear
more and more can be seen of it
and the more you can see, the less is left
it’s September and the rain
is something I like about September
like the nights
are something I like about Rome

To stand like a statue at night in Rome in September
in the middle of the street and be undressed by four guys

To be awake and alone and present early in the morning
is something I like about the morning
that I experience it, that it leaves me alone
a kind of humming, a kind of stammering

The year is about to disappear, my fingertips hurt
I register something, I’m lying in a kind of removal mess
because I’ve just moved
and the feeling has moved with me, I find this surprising
that the feeling has an exterior
I have to reconsider
what I’m actually walking around in the midst of
what I’m actually doing
in these badly lighted rooms
who am I
amongst these boxes, what they turn me into
my inner landscape, my outer
a bunk bed from IKEA, separated into its main parts

The year is about to disappear, I stammer
I want people to see trees shedding leaves in this poem
the stems, that one can see it’s a person
standing naked
that it’s losing its things, that it’s left standing with bumps
with its arms raised, wiry

My cock may be a kind of solution
a big suck under life
my cock and my legs, my arse
have dreamed again
these dreams, like a suck under life
the curve of the breasts, the curves of the buttocks
the doubling is exciting
the mouth and the sex under us
the arsehole’s genitive, this little juicy s
to open it with the tongue
and penetrate deeply, two tongues

around my cock, I love it when you suck my cock
while you’re being fucked from behind
it doesn’t matter by who, I love looking you in the eyes
while you’re being licked by her I’m fucking from behind

It’s a kind of solution, it’s a place to be
as long as it lasts, a warmth under us
that which runs between us

That we fuck them together
that we let them fuck us, together
I love holding your hand
when we’re lying on our knees together; when we, together, are fucked
when they fuck us up the arse, at the same time
when they take hold of us
and hold on to us
and want something of us

My cock in your face, I hit you
with my cock, my semen in your face
the heat spreads like a kind of solution
as long as it lasts

And then—

Today is election day, elections days are something I like
about Denmark
a brief moment
an open situation
mankind, beside itself
mankind, sees itself

That mild disappointment after casting your vote
that sudden self-consciousness
this: is that supposed to be a kind of solution

The discussion about the good life takes place
in a different place, the cars are on their way some place
out of town, they’re going no place

The year is a kind of Venice on its piles
in its fog, with its things to see to and so on
this Italian shadow across Toftegårds Plads
a few centimetres shorter each day

I return to this journey all the time:
Bosnia, Sarajevo, the landing, being collected
at the airport, the rain, the drops on the windscreen
like doublings of the bullet holes in the walls
like doublings of each other, the minarets as though giving the finger
I didn’t think that while I was there, but that’s what they look like
like they’re giving the finger, and suddenly:
I’ve become an instrument of politics

I return to this journey all the time:
Spain, Costa Brava, Hotel Annabel, with my mother
my first real journey, my first journey on a plane
the first stamp in my passport, my mother in the hotel disco
with me, my mother drinking champagne
with me, my mother falling ill and being rushed to hospital
my mother who always fell ill and had to be rushed to hospital

What should an election poem look like, I would like to write an election poem
on election day, these strange feelings
it should play out, the election it should re-enact
what’s being chosen between

In Gothenburg I heard Terézia Mora speak
I lived in a Communist country until I was 18
then I turned 18, who was I then
I had to invent an identity which hadn’t existed before

It puzzled me that she was a mother
she seemed so hard with the hardness as something exterior
the hardness as something unnecessary, destructive
boundless, she reminded me of other women I know

Outside it’s raining, and also now that I’m reading what I’ve written
then the sun shines
I think of Terézia Mora and of my mother
my knuckles ache, the arthritis has come
to me too, like a greeting from the family tree, the telephone rings
the details are rebelling
against this despairing tone
if despairing isn’t too great a word
the telephone rings and my father asks if I want him to bring beer from Germany

Of course—

The details would like beer to be brought from Germany

The details want more beer
the details want more sex, always
the details don’t want to sit here and hang around any longer
the details want to look at modern art
I want to too, things brighten up a bit, I want to too
that’s what I choose, sight, to see something, to shine myself

Instead I go to Berlin and try to learn German
but it obviously isn’t something I can learn
on Hauptstraße
I see behind a tree a sudden white wall appear
like a fog
at the language school I see the skin around the eyes of a twenty-four
                   -year-old woman
fresh and white and quite without wrinkles
on the way up the stairs I can suddenly smell myself
my jacket is dirty, my insides are grubby, my stubble randomly placed
on my face, I wonder:
am I accusative or dative, dynamic or static
always on the move, rushing
from one thing to another, but nothing ever happens
the details remain standing
still, on their own
they are allowed to mean something
but for whom
how I hate you
rhetorical question

Today I got wind of something:
pumpkin is called Kürbis in German
Kürbis like Körper or Kopf
a creepy fruit, this orange
a creepy head
and out of the head comes:

This journey that I constantly return to:
to Colle di Val d’Elsa
the idea of freedom, the idea of peace
and time to read
Kafka’s diaries
but unfortunately I’m online and out of my email comes:

An invitation to a casting
then I’ll have to read stupid crime novels instead and the job
always goes to Klaus Rothstein anyway, I once wrote
that nothing is in vain
but unfortunately there’s much that is

I want to go back, I want to do it properly, I’ll say no to much more
I want the poem to be a place where everything can happen
where it can still manage to happen
before it disappears
but that, then, is a different poem
you see
not mine—

By telling itself a person can disappear
the more you can see of it, the less is left
I remain— here—like a little word
verb or noun, dynamic or static
here is a hopeful little adverb
hoping, so sincerely, so amicably
hoping that someone will come, hoping that it might still happen
that someone will come and put it in their mouth

To put it bluntly, to say it carefully;
the summer’s dog days are over
the summer’s gone and it’s not coming back
a very different . . .
a different weather; a difference . . . the difference is spreading across the sky
it spreads out in me, slowly, it’s the light and life and the year that’s passing
something that’s changing, is underway, something that’s drenched
as though a carafe of wine had been knocked over
the difference is spreading
out over the tablecloth

And the tablecloth
that tablecloth
that’s me too—

translated from the Danish by Christopher Sand-Iversen