Illustration: Somnath Bhatt.

Four billion people on Earth.
And all of them sleep, all of them dream.
Every dream is crowded with faces and bodies—
there are more dreamed people than there are us.
But they don’t take up any space…
You might happen to fall asleep at the theater.
In the middle of the play, your eyelids sink.
A moment’s double exposure: the scene
up there is superseded by a dream.
Then there’s no scene anymore, there’s you.
The theater in its honest depths!
The mystery of the overworked
stage manager!
The interminable new rehearsals…
A bedroom. It’s night.
The dark sky flows through the room.
The book that someone fell asleep to
is still spread open
and lies wounded on the edge of the bed.
The sleeper’s eyes are moving,
they’re following the letterless text
in another book—
illuminated, archaic, quick.
A breathtaking commedia that’s printed
behind the eyelids’ monastery walls.
A single copy. It’s right here and now!
Tomorrow it will all be deleted.
The mystery of the great extravagance!
Obliteration…Like when the tourist is stopped
by suspicious men in uniform—
they open the camera, unroll his film
and let the sun kill the pictures:
so the dreams are blacked out by the light of day.
Obliterated or just invisible?
There’s an out-of-sight dreaming
always going on. Light for other eyes.
A zone where crawling thoughts learn to walk.
Faces and figures are regrouped.
We’re moving along a street, among people
in the blazing sun.
But there are just as many or more
we don’t see
who are inside the dark buildings
that rise up on either side.
Sometimes one of them goes to the window
and glances down at us.

Tomas Tranströmer

The Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer, acclaimed as one of the most important European writers since World War II, was awarded the 2011 Nobel Prize in Literature. His poetry has been translated into over sixty languages. He died in 2015 at the age of eighty-three.

Patty Crane

Patty Crane’s translations of Tomas Tranströmer’s poems have appeared in American Poetry ReviewBlackbird, PEN Poetry Series, Poetry Daily, and The New York Times, among others. Bright Scythe, a bilingual selection of her translations, was published by Sarabande Books in 2015.