Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Rolf Jacobsen: "—When They Sleep"

All people are children when they sleep.
there’s no war in them then.
They open their hands and breathe
in that quiet rhythm heaven has given them.

They pucker their lips like small children
and open their hands halfway,
soldiers and statesmen, servants and masters.
The stars stand guard
and a haze veils the sky,
a few hours when no one will do anybody harm.

If only we could speak to one another then
when our hearts are half-open flowers.
Words like golden bees
would drift in.
—God, teach me the language of sleep.

"When They Sleep" by Rolf Jacobsen. Text as published in The Roads Have Come to an End Now: Selected and Last Poems of Rolf Jacobsen, translated by Robert Bly, Roger Greenwald and Robert Hedin (Copper Canyon Press, 2001). Translated from the original Norwegian (found on page 44 of this online source) by Robert Hedin.

 Art credit: Untitled photograph by REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic/Files. Caption: "A U.S. soldier of 2-12 Infantry 4BCT-4ID Task Force Mountain Warrior takes a break during a night mission near Honaker Miracle camp at the Pesh valley of Kunar Province of Afghanistan in August, 2009."


  1. One tries always to speak in the tones of love, but too often we fail. Perhaps the secret is to "...open [our] hands and breathe" before we express our thoughts.


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