Lyrical Beauty



I slept, and I dreamed I was in Siberia. There were the great plains with unbroken lines, and a sky and a light as from the dawn of the world, and timbered houses and flocks of birds like a thousand flamingos that changed into seagulls when they took off and flew and filled the world before they dissolved and were gone. There were herds of horses all of them black, and I was the only rider. We galloped alongside the train, and it was so long I could see no end in either direction. It traveled fast, I felt the horse rising and falling between my legs, and I liked it and wanted to go on like that, but I could not, I had to get over into the train. I rode the horse as close to it as possible and leaned sideways. My hair was long and heavy, it flew out in the wind and back in my face so my eyes stung and the tears ran down, but I caught hold of an iron handle and swung myself over onto the platform at the back of the carriage. It was not difficult, I had see in it films. I ran into the carriage, but he was not there. The train was empty, the seats empty, and through the window I could see all the pretty horses. The closest was the one I had been riding. Now I saw it was [my grandfather’s horse] Lucifer, and [my brother] Jesper was on his back. I had not seen Jesper for four years. I remember the date exactly, the fourth of September, 1943. I said it aloud. He waved and called, but I could not hear, for the sound of the train on the rails and the sound of the hooves filled the carriage so there was room for nothing else. He waved again and called. I pressed my face to the window but the herd of horses with Jesper in their midst turned away from the train so the distance grew greater and greater until they vanished behind the horizon that was just as sharp and ruler-straight as the train. Now he will fall, I thought.

from Per Petterson, To Siberia, translated by Anne Born


In a night train, completely empty, clattering through the fields and woods, a young man, my ancient self, incomprehensibly identical with me, tucks up his legs on a hard bench—it is cold in the wagon—and in his slumber hears the clap of level crossings, echo of bridges, thrum of spans, the whistle of the locomotive. He wakes up, rubs his eyes, and above the tossed-back scarecrows of the pines he sees a dark blue expanse in which, low on the horizon, one blood-red star is glowing.

from “The Wormwood Star” movement

of Czeslaw Milosz’s The Separate Notebooks

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