I look to the sky and at the earth and straight ahead
and since then I’ve been writing a long letter to the dead
on a typewriter with no ribbon just a horizon line
so the words knock in vain and nothing sticks.
- from Baltics (section v) 1974, Tomas Tranströmer
I came back to these lines for the images. Was it a mistake to read so many reviews? I am timid with poetry... so much expectation of translation, interpretation, unpacking, digging deep. But I couldn't let the image alone. The conflation of horizon, the place where sky and earth meet, and the impression of a horizontal line banged out on a ribbon-less typewriter. I guess it is an easy leap from words creating no tangible line to the understanding that the place where earth and sky meet is intangible as well.
Back with Tranströmer’s Baltics, I notice today that it is a long letter to the dead being written on a ribbon-less typewriter. All of my love of the image and all of my review-reading missed this. The images came first, and now the gesture. Offering language to the dead is not something I haven’t thought about. It is my idea that it is not in vain, though Tranströmer writes that it is.... “nothing sticks.” I am not so sure... the horizon line is only visible from where I stand, the words written known only to my hand. Not there and yet... there.