No. 1964

Translated by Robert Hedin and Dag T. Straumsvåg

I’m prisoner 1964, my birth year. My cell number is the same as my phone number. I often sit in front of my cell door looking for cracks in the alloy, reading books on fretting fatigue and surface damage, inner and outer pressure. I’ve read The Count of Monte Cristo. I stay in shape, my cell’s got a view of a duck pond. Today the warden has come to see me. He hands me a napkin with a color print of “The Storming of the Bastille” on one side, an escape plan on the other. He says it’s natural for prisoners to plan escapes, the guards get anxious if we don’t follow our instincts. I look at the plan. It’s a labyrinth of arrows, tunnels, airshafts, sewer pipes, and a drawing of my cell, in full detail, with the warden and me in deep conversation. The duck pond has been replaced by a flock of sheep grazing on a hillside in New Zealand. The warden begins to sniffle. “I’m sorry,” he says, “but the escape plan isn’t what you think it is. There’s one more prison outside this one, and then another, and another, an endless number of prisons. We’ve been waiting for years for you to break out, but nothing happened, and . . .” He blows his nose. “Anyway, this plan will take you as far as New Zealand. After that you’re on your own.”

 

&

Robert Hedin is the author, translator, and editor of two dozen books of poetry and prose, most recently At the Great Door of Morning: Selected Poems and Translations and The Dream We Carry: Selected and Last Poems of Olav H. Hauge (co-translated with Robert Bly). He lives in Frontenac, Minnesota.

Dag T. Straumsvåg was born in 1964 and raised along the sparsely populated coastline of western Norway. He is the author of three books of poetry. A respected translator of contemporary American poetry, he has been employed as a farmhand, librarian, and at a local radio station in Trondheim, where he has lived since 1984.

“No. 1964” was originally published in TLR: Feverish