Postcards from Malthusia DAY FIVE: Rob A. Mackenzie

Tranströmer Cento


The dead had begun to breathe during the night,

a mob of people with blank faces

feeling their way forward in the falling snow.

No big arm movements, all rhetoric has to be left behind.


A helmet with nothing inside has taken power

and someone pays no taxes to Caesar.

Radical and Reactionary live together as in a miserable marriage;

the dark hull of society keeps on going.


It’s quiet now. No one knows what will happen.

We only know every person is a half-open door.

A saint made of wood is inside, smiling helplessly.

Perhaps letting the truth escape from books would help.


The storm will blow everything inside us away

and make the whole house dark from inside,

as when a man goes so deep into his dream

for a long, long time till morning puts his light in the locks.


Reality has eaten away so much of us

through a backdoor in the landscape.

It is still beautiful to hear the heart beat.

It has a job to do. It picks life out of the rain.


(each line is from a different poem by Tomas Tranströmer, translated by Robert Bly or Robin Fulton)


Rob A. Mackenzie is from Glasgow and lives in Leith. He is reviews editor for Magma Poetry magazine and co-organises the monthly Edinburgh live poetry event, Vespers. He runs literary publisher, Blue Diode Press. His third full collection, The Book of Revelation, was due for publication by Salt in May 2020.


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