Around me float terrible mouths.
The suburban train is thudding.
These are mothers.
Mouths of predatory fish,
locked and tensed in greedy fear:
to eat or be eaten.
Themselves eaten away (no one has noticed)
they lug their entrails in string bags.
Dead eyes, dead fear,
mouths of predatory fish.
This is the lover.
Paint-swollen mushroom mouth
sucks for prey.
The shame of having given herself, the shame of the cheated
sucks for revenge of a thousand triumphs,
is never sated,
settles in layers of tortured impudence
around a wet mushroom mouth.
This is the pious man,
who with holy pursing
hides and denies his lips.
They cannot be seen, do not exist -
God himself cannot see them.
Why is he afraid of his lips?
What do they look like when he is asleep?
This is the happy woman,
she who became a possessor.
Among all those who struggle
she is the one who prevailed.
No lever will ever force open those jaws,
screwed tight around life's prize.
But over there by the window,
flowers a mouth that captures nothing.
What do you breathe over the wide world,
so world-estranged?
When will you be scared down there into the deep
to predatory fish
and sucking mouths,
snatch wildly after hunted prey,
slash desperately at the others?
if you want to live.
So I will take my staff and wander
and seek another world for you,
a world where mouths are allowed to be flowers
and breathe like flowers
their life's breath
and flow like flowers
from deep sources
and stand like flowers
happily open.
Around you snap our deep-sea mouths.
The suburban train is thudding

Translated into English by David McDuff in "Karin Boye: Complete poems".

Swedish original

Copyright © 2005:
Translation from Swedish into English: David McDuff

Published with the permission of:
David McDuff, translation.
May and Hans Mehlin, Layout.

For more information, please visit the website of David McDuff and his own pages with the translations.