WORKS Poems by Liv Lundberg, 1999

translated by Susan Schwartz Senstan and the poet




a sculpture in a room

simple elements of material and time

will assemble a picture

which looks like you

this is the picture of you

nose tip, ear lobe, jaw bone

in the throat are stuck the words

no mouth has uttered

clothes stitched around a body, a purse

with identity papers

whoever you may be

with your pale, unclear face

a birth certificate

a signature

shadow and sun, the daily

almost machinelike repetitions

they say they know who you are

they say you are

a picture of yourself

you look like a sculpture in a room



a body, barely sketched

in all simplicity

newborn, unfinished as a primitive sign

a naked contour to fill with the work of cells

limbs loosely jointed

head dancing on the spinal column

like a bird on a jet of water

in the play of drops: fragments

of feathers, cartilage, bone

and minerals

in my mind

I want to watch your creation

if it is you

if it is me



a sleeping child

in words from the future

cheek resting against

a  pure topographical dream

in form’s meditative childhood

to awaken later

in a marble surface

face lifted by the flight of its eyes

skull burdened by the shadow of its meaning


(henry moore)

passing through the arms of henry moore

like a child through its mother

in the entanglement of sensibility

in a space orchestrated

by its surfaces

a truly naked being

through passages of a body without end

absolutely real, unreal

as you are


a person filled with blood

carved out of stone, a statue



a vision visits you

finds you home in bed one fresh hour

warm and dreamy, unripe

it tells you it is complete

more or less

a consummate creation

needing just a hand and a hammer

a little of your labor, a few hours’ work

to rise up and remain standing

longer than a life

out in the gardens of reality

its stony feet in the fragrant grasses



to stay out there

upright alone and neutral

or as a group of three

draped female figures

a bond immortalized

in stone

like a social law

a kind of love

or just to sit, the two of you

on a bench

out on a ridge with cliffs and grasses

your stony eyes turned southwest

like a king and a queen


their non-existent realm

dreaming of peopling that wasteland

with peculiar children

a whole family of figures from the borderland


(light machine)

a light moving machine

on its own drive

with the force of the wind

a delicate exploration of light

its building up and breaking down

the disappearing

light of night, light’s morning gift

to the wedding party

the grating light from the locked ward

the sculptural planes of the light

on a face, your face

reached for and embraced

by shadows

the forsaken light, monotony’s

grey light

which wipes away the contours

of a person

until content and form unite

the eye that sees closes

around its dark pupil

and leaves the light

to extinguish itself



I see

naked newborns with outstretched arms

I see something suffering, extended

stretched out like a woman

under observation

and the thinker thoughtful

bent over

I see an omnipotent arm raised

by the lawmaker, the tablet writer

standing before the unfinished figures

stiffened, silenced

in their becoming

I see

a humble witness

enter through the monastery gate

to write down all these days

noting the contemporary explanations

on the computer

in his cell

with the nightmare’s gift for precision


(the cave)

I study the hole from outside

ponder over its introversion

the form of its concealment

one entrance only; an inconspicuous crevice

I slip in

in cave fascination

unlit cavern corridors

the light from my headlamp

caresses formations

of stalagmites

and stalagtites

my feet tread carefully

on the purely physical side

of the excavating

feeling of the cave

patterned in mental grey tones

clothed in secrecy


                                                                (still life)

who threw the angel out of heaven

a shining, blue black splash of matter

amorphous, ugly, alien creature

from the outskirts of space

or from the inner globe exploded

in lava spurts

and solidified into a stony moment

who drew

the ragged coastline of the marriage

between order and chaos

who twisted the cave inside out, smashed the masks

of those who dance, who die


the physical law of wisdom

its blue black exterior

and recorded its de facto despair



giacometti at gallery louisiana

I am twenty-one

and just as vanishingly thin

as the elongated creations

which fill the space between heaven and earth

with distance

stretched out across a world which tapers

and extends

with the soles of their feet forged to the base

like giant, wingless birds

stiffened in their stride

standing woman. walking man

existence barely exists

in my vision

equally thin and ambiguous

a shock of insight:

I am, am not

the exposed, extended creations

have taken the space into their bodies

the light into their shadows

taken possesion of my sight

adorning themselves with my eyes

like shining spheres

surrounding me

with their precarious bronze balance

a crass plea

to exist

to act

to ache




a cross

a simple cross mark

you stand at the crossroad

where the four winds meet

encircled by the horizon

watching an arrow fly

into infinity

blood drops, nail wounds

a cross

civilization’s simplest sign

you must choose your direction

go just go

just become a human being

a star, a flock of birds



the playful line came first

along with the gesture

the straight line is military

disciplining the scribble

into a legion of points on the march

a target-seeking arrow in the bow, a lifted spear

a line, infinte

or confined between two points:

a line drawn, a boundry set

by a person who is – and owns

the straight line divides the world

into over and under, into heaven and earth

into this and the other side

the straight line

treats the surface of space

radically and unequivocally : connects or divides



a point is always alone

the zero the silence

before anything has begun

a point born of the moment

when a fingertip touches matter

a stick or a pen taps a surface

a point is a minimum

can not expand or alter

without becoming other than itself:

a spot, a small circle or a line

the tantrics say the point is light itself

colourless before the start of colour

the point

to which everything is returning



in the almond form

two circle segments meet

vulva: eye and mouth



(human figure)

a figure of clay

a rather small man

stands with his head tilted

in the fields outside the village

humble almost pleading

with enormous ears and his hair

gathered at the nape of his neck

one arm, draped

around him

collecting himself

a form of being human

simply being

present in his life’s work





the rooms chained together

through corridors and stairways

start to relate to each other when double doors are thrown open

so the light from tall opposing arched windows

meets in the airy room

where light crosses light a human being stands

still, almost transparent

and waits

and grows


in the shadows along the garden wall

flows a canal, the dark water mirror

adorned with coloured leaves

scattered by a natural autumn hand

we arrive by crossing the stone bridge’s arc

and see a person pass

under the vault of the arcade

a glimpse of body between column and column

like a measure of the building’s rhythm

and life content, a study

in mankind’s construction of meaning



the narrow trunks of young trees

can yield to the tension

strain their arching to the utmost

to participate in the building

that which cannot bend, will break

rigidity is full of fear

to be so staunch, so inflexible

in its upright axis—


I am who I am who I am


until the impact hits

and the break can not be fixed.

(two chairs)

on a desolate heath

between mountain ridges

by the shore of a lake

lies a little stone cabin

its low broad door hewn of rough wood

we peek inside

and see the light fall

at a slant in broad twin stripes

down from the high window frame

across the chalky rough surface of the wall

below the window, pushed into the corner

two spindled chairs with straw seats stand

pressed together tightly

as if shrinking from an unwelcome visit

from a person

who might break in with the whole burden of loneliness

collapse onto one of the chairs

and start a monologue to which there is no reply



we imagine a person

in a room

with masonry walls, paint peeling

the only furnishing

a wash basin and a radiator

mounted beside

a bolted door

a holding cell

for locking up and keeping

unfortunate times, uncomfortable skin colours

confusing blows against the head

the body search and deportation

of someone

who can only plead

guilty or at least to being an accomplice

to his own debasement



a french museum of contemporary art

is built of thick, black petroleum pipes

angled with elbow joints

against walls of snow white marble

cool, formal as antique columns

in a landscape of light

we listen to sophisticated french theories

about transmodern space-time works

at the new millenium

we don’t know what to believe

having lost our old imperatives

locked in the illusions of art and knowledge

wandering in the dizzying state

of europe

no exits are visible

the eye’s only way out is through a barred window

with a view past the treetops

to a red sunset

glowing like a detonation

mirrored in the glistening oily black surface

we tread carefully

we do not know how far it is to the bottom



the picture of a human being

a face, objective as fate

face to face with silence and the room

the portrait of a young woman approaching death

portrayed like a thing among other things

against a rough brick wall, a broken pipe

a doorway, and this questioning

almost wanting to beg

for forgiveness

being as face

a human being who will soon not be

a human being squarely facing nothingness

wondering, it is the eye that sees

the clear eye

that does not want to know any more



a box not yet opened

no one knows what’s inside, empty or full

of small things, treasures, a dead man’s belongings

codes left behind that no one wants to break

no heirs have come forward

no one has claimed the memories

maybe no one knows where to find the key

but the box will never disappear

from a person’s inventory

we all carry with us such black, rectangular boxes

when we leave home, get married and

break up to set off on new

and equally dubious journeys



we are modest witnesses

to what we see

we are responsible for what we report

from strange, fossilized places

in accounts of hardening, dehumanizing, disintegrating

and dinosauric experience

in evolution’s gradual, skillful

contact with matter

time’s distances

are burning their ice ages

into our palms

like liquid nitrogene

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