Intentions (excerpts)

By Johannes Jansen

Translation Catherine Hales

5

So it is; in time, all opinions absorb our own. We cannot say who they are made by, yet it is possible for us to see something as beautiful, while at the same time discovering everything about it that there is to criticise. But both aspects have merely provisional validity, something for us helplessly to hang on to, you could say, that we don’t in fact even need, since we diminish and reduce ourselves anyway day by day to slowly decaying organisms. Later, everything is different again, but that doesn’t matter, as the name of our killer is flight. A ray that breaks itself in the end after all and proves everything like a puzzle. That’s time, we reply finally, and since, thoroughly conscious and confused, we continue to shift between the always problematical residues of what has vanished, relationships are extremely complicated, and webs of connections fairly densely spun. That is the situation, we say in the end, for the awareness of possibility puts up strong resistance to the alleged fact of impossibility. Then only laughter can help. But if we laugh too loudly, we get put away. In the end we just have to laugh.
6

We don’t want to halt the operation. Retreat is only sporadically an option. We want to say something about ourselves. Strange ambition. Thus we make ourselves into know-what-who’d-like-to and need not be surprised at getting loaded down with guilt; but nobody’s to blame when it comes down to it, since, after all, everybody is breaking rules all the time. And so we’re placed within the smallest of solitary spaces. Always the way form permits it at the time. We don’t suffer from solitariness, for that is the form that permits us to speak.
7

Perhaps we should think everything quite differently: it’s the everyday irregularities that keep us on track. If we manage to get something done, then madness is not far away. Mourning misfortune is a good guarantee of the norm. The woman next door is weighed down by a heavy fate and we don’t know whether we can manage to lose well. It’s a different distribution of weights, though reason tells us that both are tragic and therefore healthy. But angels can be shattered by our malleability. On the other hand, broken angels are much brighter than the ones that just look down, because they contain night. They have their work cut out and have to shine.

 

 

14

Running costs are up. Fraud is suspected, and the man next door is fighting to keep the broom cupboard he lives in. He’s had enough, at least that’s what he says. At least he’s got his heating. Aren’t they just cheating themselves, he asks, after checking whether an adequate number of drinks will salvage his evening; and of course they do salvage it. But that thing about cheating, surely that’s dialectical wishful thinking. Maybe the man next door is religious and hopes that sin will stick its own neck in the noose? We almost doubt it, but he’ll say it over and over again. Sisyphus, too, was just a tenant of a space.

 
16

She comes in to ask for a cigarette. She hasn’t got a light either, as we well know, and she’s got a screw loose. She’ll be needing help for the rest of her days. None of the usual pettiness, more a breath that fixes agreement. Waking up confused in spite of the usual medicine, she’s planned ways, important actions, for instance laying wreaths in the maternity ward.
17

Again and again we see that some among us do not notice the war. They have bands around their heads and are happy a lot of the time. For them, things are as they should be. Gold launderers, you could say. The water washes it out. It took an immense amount of effort, but they once conceived of a little picture-book world. Exhausting, that kind of thing. But anybody who perceives the end-product is infected … A year is coming to an end. The party will be amazing, in the plain, in a small group around the sporadic fire. Even when we were young the witches were always pushing us closer to the flames. Witches – that’s what we call women who know the way things are. Women, yes, but they often went about the world like little girls, full of responsibility and with their eyes wide open, learning a great deal in the process, for example, how to avert war. Isn’t that right, Mother dear? Unconditional collaboration between those ideas in society that are still in a state of antagonistic confrontation is an utter must and the chief task in our next 5-year plan … The plain is wide and you meet yourself coming the other way, exactly the way it has to be on the last day of an intensely lived year …
23

We measure out the heart space. Sometimes a tugging, like a wide space that counts and therefore threatens pain as though it were already the end. But we have medicine available. We take it punctually, because we want to be around for a while longer to see what happens, that willingness to sacrifice ourselves pulsing in our chests, left hand side, which opens the throne room, to make us a last supper that can be lived at last as before, for after all we’ve foregone a lot this whole time just to be sitting here at this table following the plot in the knowledge of its clarity which penetrates the hair roots and expands the heart space, without our needing to be afraid of derailment, which was otherwise always too loud, even when right on cue, because society as such is calibrated to the softer tones. We need to learn this, because, since we’re moved by different worlds, up and down, you could say, we see the connections again, a tormented body, healing in the light and standing before us when we pay attention to it by seeing ourselves, for the private revolutions are always the ones we can be sure of. Get yourself some flowers and sit in the light on bright days without upsetting your daily routine. After all, what we want is to free ourselves gently from our petty bonds without losing what it is we hold on to. But there are reserves to fall back on so that we can, if we need to, change the facade. This offers confusion, which clears things up, and perhaps a favourable picture will emerge from it, one that will hold up for a few years, like the faces we’re currently using.
28

The scared woman in the inconsolably cleaned kitchen,
with red socks, in night-gown and jacket;
the jacket is grey.
This woman,
she explains her confusion like this:
she’d love to visit the seals,
but her husband needs the money for beer.
She drinks too, but it has to be warm,
or her guts will start playing her up.
Her husband’s eyes are often so white that it scares her.
Her fear is white and she’s scared every day.
It’s not his fault.
He was in the foreign legion.
Her child has gone because she’s ill.
It’s not her fault.
But she’s afraid that her husband will go too
and she yearns …
Should dignity still be an illusion?