Poems: Theis Ørntoft

Illo for Theis Orntoft's poems.

[Translated from the Danish by Julia Cohen and Jens Bjering.]

From ‘Arctic Command’

In a dream the streets brimmed with insects
looking for spots on the world
where there were scabs
where there was human skin
did you hear that?
did you rest your ear on the heart of the insect
did you hear the distant opera in there
did you hear the stammering people whisper
in the vocal chords gold is a rare find
did you doze off during a film about liquid capital
and wake up at the bottom of a frozen think tank?

I do not like awakenings
I do not like births and life
and now I’ll tell you why:

one time I was so unlucky
to be born near an artery
and the parents whispered: make use of it, it’s yours
there were lawns and palms
there was strife and unrest
but the times flowed, and I slid toward new births
now I sit in a city
under the influence
by an era
along a death axis
and see human bodies whirl
until they disappear out into their own private cosmologies
once in a while you rest your ear on a rotten mouth
you’ve gotta listen to its rotten music
you’ve gotta dance as you’ve always danced
but tell me why you do
DJ Giantdad
DJ Liquid Paranoiagratin
play woof woof on your dog guitar instead
DJ How the Fuck Does It Go to the Dogs
DJ Meatpiano on Checkered Floors
do you know I’m sick of familiar music
do you know my intellect sparks
each time it meets its limitations
DJ Human Fossil Found in a Chalk Quarry
DJ Outsourcing of the I-feeling to the Third World
do you know it smells of shawarma when I open my mouth
that unrest crept into my life through pine forests and childhood
do you know
that my life is filled with despair and fear
fear of infants staring too intelligently at me
fear of a heart attack on the street
because someone finds an amber lump on a jungle riverbed
isn’t it breaking news
isn’t it paranoia encapsulated
let’s investigate giant pizzamafia and skullfuck randomly
a giant skullfuck poem
a long wolfcock up in the forests of Denmark
we just don’t want any fucking wolves up here
we just don’t want them up here
my own wagging spine is enough
I live life in my replaceable organs
and believe me when I say
I’ll have to be smoked out of the growth ideology
yeah I’ll have to be smoked out of the growth ideology
I wanna see the parties rotate like cancer cells
around my sixth birthday before I act
I wanna see them spread my ashes over all biological mother tongues before I act
I wanna see them drag a fishnet full of mermaids
out of my morning urine
where to go with your love
where to go with it
behind the counters they just stand around and melt
no help from there
please take a number and fuck a fetus
place yourself in recovery position and bark at the sky
woof woof
anarchy in all atoms
arctic command
wasps in my stool, the first signs of punishment.

Once the dictator was a man of flesh and blood.

Now those times are over.
now they’ve blown to atoms
and now I’m lying somewhere among those atoms
and see my teeth float out of my mouth
like a space shuttle’s crew
now I take a breath and hold it in as if it were mine.
I’m a parasite on a blue planet
a thin membrane between circus and mass grave
I’m a weak-minded gong, hit me
make me knight of the western regions
the world needs a unifying force

drive me around in a nightblue Audi
let me wave to the masses
let me sing my beautiful song for them:

love me for my necessary cutbacks
get the wheels turning again
love me for removing Isaac Newton’s childhood
and building a coal mine instead
out of whose gates
the next dinosaurs run


My morning in the upper strata of geology.
I detach it from everyone else’s morning and call it mine
my belongings
children fighting
helicopter noise and fear in the streets.

Conversations and conflicts
distant nebula out there
I know the avenues through them
like tables and psalms, I learned them by heart.

I miss missing closeness to another human
I miss it.
I walk out of the basement
seasons and bodies welded together by the photon stream
winter, spring
small bees start flying around
any plans for the evening, Theis
Robyn’s playing a concert by the canal.
Theis Ørntoft is a Danish poet born in 1984. He graduated from the Royal Danish School of Writing in 2009. In the same year, he made his debut with Yeah suiten, for which he received several national literary prizes and nominations. In 2014, he published his second book, Digte 2014 (Poems 2014), which centers on the state of planet Earth anno 2014, where everything, and every time, seems to have melted together. Capitalism and geology, digital networks and planetary ecosystems, inner, mental cartographies and outer physical swamplands all merge into the same, incomprehensible continuum. With Poems 2014 Theis Ørntoft appears for the first time in English translation.
Julia Cohen’s most recent book is a hybrid collection of lyric essays, I Was Not Born (Noemi Press, 2014). Her other books are Collateral Light (Brooklyn Arts Press, 2014) and Triggermoon Triggermoon (Black Lawrence Press, 2011). Her work appears in journals like DIAGRAM, Colorado Review, Entropy, The Destroyer, and Kenyon Review Online. Co-translations (with Jens Bjering) of Theis Ørntoft’s poetry appear in The Fanzine, Prelude, The Atlas Review, Sixth Finch, and Words without Borders. She is an assistant professor at Wright College.
Jens Bjering holds a PhD in cultural studies from the University of Copenhagen, where he teaches and does cross-disciplinary research in legal philosophy, cultural studies, and Continental theory.

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