Niels Hav (Denmark)

Niels Hav (Denmark)
 
Niels Hav; in his native Danish the author of six collections of poetry and three volumes of short fiction. His work has been translated into several languages such as English, Arabic, Turkish, Spanish, Dutch and Farsi. In English he has We Are Here – and poetry in numerous magazines. He has travelled widely and frequently been interviewed by the media.
 
 
The Task
 
To wake up at night with a brain filled with insane
speculations is not so special,
most people have to face a monster.
Some have to take meds to bear the pain,
to survive a loss or slip out of a depression.
They feel totally abandoned and alone
with the ogres – that’s how it is.
The devil walks about like a roaring lion.
 
Others make do with whatever dope is on the market
in retail: tobacco, coffee, alcohol, orgies in food
or in asceticism. Some succeed in disappearing
into work, or some other splendid passion.
We build small empires in the hope that they’ll serve
as fixtures for our homeless spirits on the day
we leave our bodies and step into eternity.
 
Everyone wants to leave their tracks – in gratitude
for being granted permission to walk on the planet and enjoy
it’s beauty; granted permission to love and hate
to the normal extent in a body with a normal address.
 
The task is for us to decipher our common experiences;
the horror and the misery that surround us, cling
to our clothes and seep into all of our bodies.
To notice what’s going on, and if possible
to say things as they are.
 
© Niels Hav
Translation: P.K. Brask & Patrick Friesen
 
 
 
A Little Self-Irony
 
A little
self-irony suits all
the others
when the day empties its pockets,
and winter’s churlish
depressions
have an assignation on the stairs.
 
© Niels Hav
Translated by P.K. Brask & Patrick Friesen
 
 
 
Human Mentality
 
Human mentality is a mystical hotel
with many floors, corridors, meeting rooms
and conference facilities.
At reception indisputable common sense rules
during the day. At night everything is taken care of
by a Neanderthal.
 
All world views are represented in this hotel.
In some rooms important contracts are negotiated,
drastic reforms are planned. Criminal
acts and murder are contemplated. If the receptionist
knocks on this door to ask personal questions
he will be turned away with a roar of derision.
In other rooms philosophers live, word jugglers,
shamans and zealous believers. The basement is haunted
by the great drummer of nothingness who keeps
reptiles as pets. Everywhere there’s febrile activity.
 
In crucial situations everyone is called together
for a conference, night or day, in order to consult
on big problems or pure trivialities.
There’s no agenda and no chair;
questions rise and disappear in quick riots.
One argument on top of another
each at its own pitch. Some use logic
or common sense, others declaim with howls,
whining, song, curses, pleas and screams of terror.
Ancient spirits chant reams of incomprehensible words
in dead languages. Rarely
is a binding conclusion drawn.
Suddenly everyone returns to their rooms
each snared in his own unshakeable confusion.
 
At the reception a clean, well-dressed
person walks about. He calls himself I
and maintains that he’s the manager; he asserts
that all decisions are made by him; he claims
that the hotel is rationally run
in accordance with contemporary principles.
 
Listen to him with a little scepticism.
The rest of the hotel’s inhabitants don’t give a damn
for his authority.
 
© Niels Hav
Translated by P. K. Brask & Patrick Friesen
 
 
 
Heart Problems
 
We spoke of heart problems
and sudden deaths;
jokes were told
of potato chips, wine and cigarettes.
We ate and drank. Our touch was light
because none of us doubted
that one day we too will find ourselves lying
each, alone, on the sidewalk or some floor
with a view of feet and chair legs,
while someone frantically tears
shirt buttons from our clothes
and screams for help.
 
There’s no shame
in dying on the floor,
as long as it’s not
on purpose.
 
© Niels Hav
Translated by P.K. Brask & Patrick Friesen

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