Niels Hav

You Know - It

It happens that I am suddenly hit by, you know – it -
when we're watching the news with children in the room.
Their serious restlessness at the sight of murder
and the sound of crying condenses
into a big question mark hanging
above my head like an axe
or a dirty cloud.

I switch it off. I attempt to erase
it all, shift the mood. In vain.
Smashing the TV won't do it either.
The truth about the state of the world seeps
in through the walls; the children know,
of course, it's their world –
the only one I have for them.
You can see it in their eyes;
they will not acquit us. Never!
Our jokes are without effect,
cynicism builds minus points.
Each day ever more is piled up
of, you know - it.

Translated by P.K. Brask & Patrick Friesen


Can the world be improved? First we'll have to change
human nature. There's cause for pessimism.
Evil triumphs and hate appears clothed
in religion, or in the latest political uniform.

But it is more difficult yet to give up on the idea
and to resign oneself to the world as it is. So we must
let go of the dream that our descendants will meet
a happier future. Genetic inheritance.

And none of us can imagine killing off our children's
expectations, even if we are ashamed of our own
confusion and ignorance. Joy is such a frail
material, and physical happiness is no crime.

Admitted; I'm groping in the dark. There's a shortage
of words with real validity. Concrete
suggestions or a solid sentence with a foothold.
I cannot offer firm arguments.

But I'm affiliated with the naïve who mosey on
and want the impossible.

Translated by P.K. Brask & Patrick Friesen

Niels Hav is a poet and short story writer, living in Copenhagen with his wife, pianist Christina Bjørkøe. He has travelled widely in Europe, Asia, North and South America. His work has been translated into several languages, including English, Spanish, Portuguese, Turkish and Italian. His credits include five volumes of poetry and three short story collections. He's also been the recipient of several national awards. His forthcoming book is an English translation of Here We Are, published by Book Thug.

(author retains copyright)