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The Paper Boy Had Fallen Asleep

by Eva Ström
Translated from Swedish by
Eva Claeson
Issue 9 Online Exclusive

The paper boy had fallen asleep.
He lay curled up next to his bag of papers.
Should someone come and wake him?
And shout to the wondering people around:
Don’t be afraid, he’s not dead, only asleep.

There was no more news, whether good or bad.
Computer screens shimmered and gleamed, had
nothing to report.
The printing presses stood empty, printed only air and dew.
The tubercle bacilli had become resistant.

The resurrected sanatoria filled with patients.
Some slipped into asphyxiation. Unconscious and smiling
they left their lives, their rod-shaped resistant bacilli and pain.
A young woman tried on a wedding dress and veil,
while others ordered ever more costly dishes
only to turn away from them with rage and disgust.

The soldiers stood at the edge of the road with their machine guns.
Some showed pity and handed out snow
for the refugees to still their thirst.
Time blind they stared at the white moon.
They saw with alarm that their uniforms had been sewn in 1914
and that they were turning into their own ancestors.

Eva Ström (born in 1947) is a Swedish poet, novelist, biographer, and literary critic. She made her literary debut in 1977 with the poetry collection Den brinnande zeppelinaren (The Burning Zeppelin). Ström trained as a physician and worked in the medical profession for more than a decade (1974–1988) before becoming a full-time author. She was awarded the Nordic Council’s Literature Prize in 2003 for the poetry collection Revbensstäderna (The Rib Cities). In January 2010, she was elected a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.
Eva Claeson is a translator and writer. After thirty years in Sweden and England, she moved to Amherst, MA, where she co-founded and co-edited the translation journal Metamorphoses. She is the translator of The Serious Game by Hjalmar Soderberg and of two novels by Margareta Ekström. She edited the anthology To Catch Life Anew: 10 Swedish Women Poets.