Ten Poems by Marie Lundquist

Translated from the Swedish by Kristina Andersson Bicher.


First, she must make a clean break. Renounce everything.
Shave the head, wipe off the clothes. Fulfill
other people’s dreams, take on their illnesses. Unite
those who belong together, separate those who should be apart.
Unstick those fixed in their ways, get the lame to gallop,
raise the curtains for the blind and play telephone
with the deaf. Nothing could save her. The indispensable ones
must die. The Evangelists knew this already.


I searched for a climbing tree
to fall out of. You were stepping
right into grief. Your errand
was to be overgrown. Become grief.
Cold grief. I fell. Soft
as an apple.


I have seen too much. The surgeon’s
incision. The scar to the right of
your stomach. How can I start
over with another body. Another


It rains on the dead. So they say.
I go to see with my own eyes.
His upturned hands are filled with
water. I drink like a calf.


A concubine is a wife who fits in a small
sturdy handbag. A concubine can be fed with
liquor, by the tablespoon, gladly. A prince of a man
can sometimes keep company with his concubine
same as his chosen one. After a lengthy diet, she will
bear him a son. A knife thrower.

He took off everything. The car, the pants,
the leather covering, the belt and the mark of Cain.
When all these things lay spread out
on the floor, it looked as if they had known
each other for a long time.


The car glides slowly toward the curb.
The son sits in the backseat. He looks at his father
through the windowpane. Presses against the glass.
Laughing, banging his hands. Soft thuds, muffled
shouts. The father presses his forehead against his son’s
on the other side of the glass. It’s cooling.

A young man rests by my side.
There’s milk flowing from all holes.
The mothers come to lap it up.

The smallest of my brothers will bring me
back to our first hiding places.
Beneath them, in the deepest holes,
are the orange seeds that forgetfulness poked
down into the earth. To get them to grow
you must lie down pressed tight against
the loam and become an earth angel. To wait
like that is also a blessed state.


In my garden, there’s an open
vessel. Leaves collect on the bottom.
Animals come there to drink.
Of all the bowls, I want to save
only this one.



Kristina Andersson Bicher is a poet, essayist, and translator. Her work has been published in Ploughshares, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Plume, Denver Quarterly, The Atlantic, Harvard Review and others. She is the author of She-Giant in the Land of Here-We-Go-Again (forthcoming MadHat Press, 2019) and Just Now Alive (2014).

Marie Lundquist (b. 1950, Sweden) is the acclaimed author of 12 books of poetry and prose, as well as plays written for radio. In addition to writing and translating, she has worked as a librarian and a teacher. Lundquist has received numerous awards and honors, including Sveriges Radios Lyrikpris (2002), stipendium from the Svenska Akademien (2007), De Nios Lyrikpris (2008) and the Aspenströmpriset (2015).

Photo of Marie Lundquish by Thomas Wågström

Published on September 10, 2019.


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