Tor Ulven, Selected Poems

I shall marry the Goldsmith’s dead daughter


i stand under a tree of hungry hands


i stand under nothing


i am heading to an absolute

isolation solitude and emptiness

mile after mile of desert I left behind me

and last city passed a long time

i am heading to a great despair

to a doubt

that may be vanished only by major doubts


why do i stand silent if i have a mouth

why do i stand still if I have feet

why don’t I see if I have eyes

why don’t i scream if i am caught in this misery

because i am made of stone


there is something i cannot reach

i do not know what it is

i stretch the arms out after  it

air air… air


what are you looking for in the sky

i’m looking for a constellation that doesn’t exist


in the human sphere there are not well

so many significant things:

nails brain bones


I by my own eyes have to

access darkness.

and calmness

on the other side of them.

But who could to say

the difference

between black and green?

Who lives

and moves

in your hands

when you examine them under light

a short moment?

Many. The same

who have never


Who exists and does not

exist, exactly


The forest is alive

You can smell the odor

of the fir branches

amidst the night. The wind


In you. In us.


I will travel

to Eridu

and I will create my broken

jars with red  images

of the red-horn goat.

and the streaming water, which


and drinks all of us.

I will travel


to Eridu

and marry

the goldsmith’s dead


sitting on the threshold

in the evening, I hear the neighbour’s laughter

and the reborn flies

around the glare of the oil lamp.


The suffering

has no seat

to alight on.

You pursue oaks

inside a church.

Yes! now I suddenly see

the chestnut tree

you are thinking about, in darkness

the white flowers,

we are dust.

The slide

of a smile.

Projected on the hedge

a late summer night, the shadows

of insects

that chase, perhaps

a swallow.

Tor Ulven (1953–1995)

Tor Ulven was a Norwegian poet. He is considered one of the major poets of the Norwegian post-war era, and he won several major literary prizes in Norwegian literature.

His early works, consisting of traditional modernist verse poetry, were heavily influenced by André Breton and the surrealist movement. As the 1980s progressed he developed a more independent voice, both stylistically and thematically. The later part of his work consists mainly of prose. He committed suicide in 1995 in Oslo, the city where he was born.