Leave All Rhetoric Out

It’s been a hard winter, but summer is here and the fields want us to walk upright. Every man is unimpeded, but careful, as when you stand up in a small boat. I remember a day in Africa: on the banks of the Chari, there were many boats, an atmosphere positively friendly, the men almost blue-black in colour with three parallel scars on each cheek (meaning the Sara tribe). I am welcomed on a boat-it’s a canoe hollowed from a dark tree. The canoe is incredibly wobbly, even when you sit on your heels. A balancing act. If you have the heart on the left side you have to lean a bit to the right, nothing in the pockets, no big arms movements, please, all rhetoric has to be left behind. Precisely, rhetoric is impossible here. The canoe glides out over the water.

Tomas Tranströmer, Standing Up. The Half-Finished Heaven, Trans. Robert Bly, Graywolf Press, 2001

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