Below the surface of birdsong, under opaque lids, are the demons,
Memories out of context that break me into pieces so I don't know who I am,
Only feel shame, shortcomings.
Spring has driven out the cold silence and turned the early morning to pure sound.
The dawn that started yesterday, or I-don't-know-when,
Bleaches the lines, the minutes.
Yearning is in the daffodils outside the front door, past waking and dressing.
Under these membranes they seem unreachable,
A jungle of avian chatter between us.
The aperture of noise and light expands and forces eyes lined with weariness to open,
Knowing it will have begun narrowing when all creation is at its loveliest,
A grand design to keep longing alive.
Remarks delivered at a manifestation for Ukraine at Leksand Church, Sweden on 10 April 2022.
My remarks are in English so that our Ukrainian guests may understand.
Opa, my grandfather, hungered for the black soil of Ukraine. He was an SS man, a real Nazi, a fanatic complicit in hounding unarmed men, women, and children in occupied Poland where he was stationed throughout WWII. But he never reached his goal. Blinded by his own racism, and unhinged ambition, he believed that the enemy would soon collapse by virtue of its own weakness. At his life’s lonely end, in the interior of Brazil, the country of my birth, he searched revisionist literature endlessly for answers as to why the war had been lost. In such accounts, the Holocaust, the murder of millions, was downplayed or unmentioned.
My wish for today, apart from this war and all its suffering ending as soon as possible, is that someday in the not-too-distant future, the child or grandchild of a Russian perpetrator will stand here before you in my place. He will tell you about the atrocities committed by his forefathers, the silence about them in his family, and the shame that formed his life. She will relate to you the way that lies and taboos asphyxiated her family―that no one escapes genocide unscathed― and that one day all this became unbearable. He will explain that the dam inside him broke, and that he decided to learn the truth for himself. She will describe the heart-rending meetings with the families of the Ukrainian survivors. These won’t have been easy, and neither should they have been. But by listening and not flinching from the truth, a transformation will begin to take place inside of him. The shame that she has borne for so long will be reborn as responsibility. He will seek out his grandfather’s victims and their families and, unimaginable as it is today, they will stand together and offer the world trust and hope. This work will never end and will keep opening itself like a never-ending succession of romanesque arches.
Now I would like to read to you a beautiful poem in Swedish by Nobel Prize winning poet Tomas Tranströmer about our human complexity and the pride of being a work in progress; our humanity, a never-ending succession of Romanesque arches.
Romanska bågar/Romanesque arches
In a hollow of winter in spring,
Night descends releasing snow
without a sound
A trinity of deer leaps down the hill like music
In graceful arcs past sculpted bushes,
over the lawn under the palace lights
The wisdom of pines,
Branches heavy with men's wars,
manifests in stillness
What is our word?
From the gut of night you reply, peace,
On a walk in Drottningholm Park on the evening of 8 April 2022.
Riding with a strong woman,
Stealing just one glance
From she who chose the people,
With us delayed on the tracks.
Riding with a strong woman
Over bonfires and burning stakes,
Honour the witches and the whores,
The mothers who died with their babes.
Riding with a strong woman
Winter yields to spring,
Come with us, young wenches,
To peace this world we'll bring.
On riding the train with Sweden's first female prime minister.