Roland Acsai is a reticent poet. In a poem about a double rainbow he writes that “the rainbow doesn’t end at the crust / Or the water; it continues inside us // And underground, piercing mole burrows, / Basalt, molten rock – and comes full circle.” He is not interested in the rainbow as some outdated conveyor of beauty. This phenomenon is important for him because of what remains unseen: the full circle. Acsai is able to make us see and believe that every single object, defective and imperfect in itself, runs its own full circle. His words are there instead of the full circle. His poems are descriptions of landscapes, but they always refer to the full circle behind and below the landscape, in rocks, in mole burrows, within the human soul. The "morning well" may be none other than the fontanelle on a baby’s head.
Yet of course the landscape, the first, visible and readable plane of the poems is not unimportant either. Roland Acsai does not yearn for the south, he does not set his eyes to the west, and neither does he sigh for the east. He goes north: after the book of poems inspired by Finland, here are Acsai's Norwegian poems. A fjord and a vaguely perceptible figure inside the fjord; a whale; cold-blooded rocks; the place where Wittgenstein’s house once stood in Norway. And the empty place where Wittgenstein’s intellectual independence and daring once stood in European culture. Acsai is not as radical as his master, at least not in his gestures and the logical bareness of his texts, but he also reaches back boldly to the foundations of his genre, poetry, pulling down everything that is fallible and transient. “It’s vain to look for Wittgenstein’s / Wooden house: only its foundation stones / Are visible on the mountain, / Itself, as it were, the foundation / Of a house, once erect, / Of a vanished giant or of god.” Roland Acsai is out to explore the foundations of the house of a god—obviously, not Apollo, the southern god, but definitely some god of poetry. Perhaps the mountain is the remnant of the house of a troll who used to sing poems, and below the mountain the full circle continues in space and time, so that we can find the sense of poetry and an opportunity for contemplation, and finally, to the great delight of the author, we can find ourselves.
On the hill’s crest,
In undulating, yellow grass,
A tiny well.
Those strange five-legged horses,
Drink from it –
On the crown of my daughter’s head
The un-coalesced fontanelle
It flutters its wings
As if ruffling its feathers –
And the birch
Becomes sea eagle.
Its white leg and breast
Glow like the church
In the midnight valley.
Its yellow eye opens,
And the moon’s full,
It closes, the moon wanes.
Imperceptibly as forgetting,
It takes to the air
Above the fjord,
It swoops – doesn’t miss –
Holding prey – self –
In its claws, it flies back
And reverts to birch again.
Within the trunk
Sea-spirals, for centuries, whirl.
Like a wading bird
That, casting a shadow,
Lures fish to its beak,
I stand in shallow water
Shield my daughter from the blazing sun.
We’ve arrived again at low tide.
It seems the sea
Receded from the fjord,
But it was
Those giant turtles,
Those cold-blooded boulders,
That clambered higher
To warm themselves
On the shore.
Wittgenstein’s House in Skjolden
At Sognefjord’s end. After
The sea’s two hundred fifty kilometer
Transgression, the land prevails.
Our daughter plays with pebbles,
Like fortune-teller with rune stones;
My wife keeps her eye on her.
It’s vain to look for Wittgenstein’s
Wooden house: only its foundation stones
Are visible on the mountain,
Itself, as it were, the foundation
Of a house, once erect,
Of a vanished giant or of god.
The Whale in Dale Church
Above the fjord a cloud, the water’s spirit,
Floats. For days we haven’t seen the blue
Except for the blue painted on the church vault:
Sun, moon, the snow-flurries of stars,
And the whale. It swims ghost-like
From time’s beginning to time’s end.
My daughter points at it
With her finger’s tiny, lily-white harpoon,
A recognition more ancient
Than the buttresses. On the pillar,
Centuries old carved initials quiver
As if they were scratched onto living flesh.
Above, the gliding whale,
Below, those who have embarked in tombs.
We bummed around in raincoats in the churchyard,
On the hilltop, amidst green grass blades and wet stones;
We left the car in the parking lot.
In the sky a double rainbow stretched – a rare sight:
Above the thicker arc a thinner one,
Mirroring the former’s colors in reverse.
I beheld the Lord of the Mountains’ double crown
And knew the rainbow doesn’t end at the crust
Or the water; it continues inside us
And underground, piercing mole burrows,
Basalt, molten rock – and comes full circle.
This huge, rock-callused palm.
King of the Woods
In front of my window, he stands
As if he stood there always.
I know I’ve met him somewhere already:
During a walk in the woods or, as a child, on a playground.
Birch-bark is his skin; leaves, his vocal cords –
When the wind blows, he speaks.
He is a nestling arm to the nuthatch, shade to the sheep.
His crown is magpie nest, set jauntily to the side.
New work–27th September, 2011
After the book of poems inspired by Finland, here are Acsai's Norwegian poems. A fjord and a vaguely perceptible figure inside the fjord; a whale; cold-blooded rocks; the place where Wittgenstein’s house once stood in Norway. And the empty place where Wittgenstein’s intellectual independence and daring once stood in European culture.