from Everything Shimmers

Naja Marie Aidt

Illustration by Cody Cobb


Spiderweb-fine jellyfish
moon jellies
floating through
the water as through
et himmelrum, a sky
now in their fifth stage
of peculiar existence and like
the shining violet
veins on your
suntanned hand:
the child in his fifth year
understanding now that people
can really be gone
and disappear


Children are left to cry themselves to sleep
while the adults talk psychoanalysis;
sikke en fest, what a party.
On the subway a mother hits her child; there's no law against that;
so many threats, so many games.
At night I walk home along sinister streets. Rats scuttle.
People throng. Loud music
from a car full of bitching women. I have a bunch of carnations in my hand,
a blood-spotted dress with a train. Back behind the light is
a darkness I do not understand.
And the moon rises like a glowing grapefruit.
And the clouds drift.
Someone spits from a window
up high. 


We watched an episode of Clown and sang
about Queen Dagmar: We're Danish.
I went to a pajama party, but I
don't own any pajamas. There I stood
undressed under a sail of balloons;
I laughed. What else could I do?
The stemninger, feelings, attached to Jell-O
and aspic: It doesn't taste
good but you have to have it. A long
story in jiggly food, that much I
understand. But nursery rhymes are
idiosyncratic as mothers' milk.
"Twinkle, twinkle, little star
how I wonder what you are ...
And so.
There I stood under a cloud of balloons
people talked about Whitman, Faulkner, Poe.
I glanced toward the green treetops
and saw the man with the dog slouch by.
He beckons my white, worn
body down to him. At that
I leave the party via the open
window and balloons.
He grabs my leg.
And the dog pisses.
Oh, you, he whispers,
what kind of satans
skabning, damned
creature, are you?



But is it poesi you're writing or are you messing around, and what is that
peculiar growth you have under your skin? Oh. My heart.
A tiny Mexican man scurries along the street with a newspaper in his mouth, his
dog walks on two legs, fixes its hair, now Christmas trees for sale, glitterstads, sparkly things,
the child dreams of pickled herring on Danish rugbrød, but there won't be any of that.
Instead, cupcakes. And we take the child's temperature and call the doctor and say that
the child has a fever, 40 degrees. "Then the child is dead," says the doctor, and hangs up.
We don't understand Fahrenheit. Nor do we understand inches. And much more.
But it's the child who corrects me every time I say "are," it's not
"are," it's "are," så fat det dog, get it straight, there's a lot to stumble over, how
stupid one suddenly is, but the child in his tenth year is not stupid, he's a wise
and clever child, he has acquired the gaze of an olding to use for around 12 months,
during which he will stare and peer his way right into the souls of animals and people (actually
he will also see TUTANKHAMUN'S TOMB with total clarity, those kinds of eyes can) 



Again I've used up all my money on red shoes and a Metro Card
hoping to gain admission, to what? To all the words tumbling
around in my head like beautiful inaccessible music. To the codes. To
more than a walk down my own street, where like the child I think:
maybe now someone will believe that I really belong. The place I come from
is shrinking at the same speed that this city is growing.
I slip down into the Ukrainian steam bath. I flash through the park at
midnight. Get lost in snuskede scruffy neighborhoods. And the river, the river –
In a dream I rescue a child from a molester. In another
long rows of dead people, all nodding, shaking their skulls:
"Beware! You'll be dead for a very long time."
But ah, the child in her eleventh year is beside herself. Time for braces. Baby fat.
Huge ringing questions. A new kind of attack. Now the first grains of sand
run through the hourglass, but it just feels like insect-creeping self-gripping
UNEASE deep in her very flesh. 



As we slept a forest of bracken grew up around us
we were lost but it was TRUE the world was now
a primeval forest and from the prehistoric era roaring thundering
TYRANNOSAURUS REX, eggs as big as the child lay in the glowing
sand and the child was thrilled and turned delightedly toward
the stars, recognized Pluto and Orion's belt and immediately
began to draw it all and I went back to
the kitchen, where I was going to bake Swedish juleboller but the flour
was vitamin enriched, the yeast extra strong, the whole batch tasted too
swollen and sweet, we gave up and once more got a glimpse of the old
blodmand, the bloodman who stood staring into the window with a horribly
wolfish smile, a spindly finger pointing, "Is it me that he wants?" asked
the child in her eighth year, who isn't the least bit afraid but can do
everything and stands in perfect conjunction with the universe and waves cordially even
to a blodmand, afterward closing the curtains and humming. 



Now I understand about blodbilen, the bloodmobile. One can sell one's blood
on Ninth Street every Wednesday evening; a woman accosts people,
it's all about donor identification: "Ma'am! It's your lucky day!"
But I'm depressed and lonely, skin as thin
and tender as during a fever, in no condition for needles and contact.
I hurry home to my cave. I should never have done that. Someone has
opened up a diner in my dining room. I'm shown to a table by the door where there's
a terrible draft and the eggs I get are not sunnyside up.
"HVAD SKER DER? WHAT'S GOING ON?" shouts the child, slamming the door open
into my face, the door breaks, "ARE WE HAVING A PARTY?"
Later I'm so afraid that the diner man planted cockroaches
in the closet before he left with his folding restaurant
but then I find out we have mice. "WHY DO YOU HAVE A LUMP ON
YOUR FOREHEAD?" shouts the child. "It was the door," I mumble from bed (surrounded
by traps). "NÅHR, DØREN! OH, THE DOOR!" shouts the child. "WHY HAVEN'T YOU
FIXED IT?" What tiredness, what a core of silence in me.
But the child in her fifteenth year is not quiet. It's
a noisy enterprise. Acute lack of impulse control. Violent hunger. It's
friend. And girlfriend. An unforgettable, characteristic odeur. And everything that
the child understood, she no longer understands. But suddenly she understands
even more.

translated from the Danish by Susanna Nied