Volume 68, Number 2 · Spring 2019

Portrait of a Young Man

—Efter Giovanni Bellini

I den kælne drøm gror hår overalt, velkommen
til kærlighedens første stadie. Pas på
den farlige drøm! Den forfølger dig i det mindste mørke,
utæt som en kloak. Om fem hundrede år er skyerne
blevet digitale og blikket hakket op i små felter, forudser
den profetiske drøm. Billeder inden i billeder inden i billeder.
Ingenting forestiller længere noget. Den ironiske drøm
klapper sig selv på skulderen, gamle dreng, så døde du
også. I den fromme drøm, gemt i et hjørne,
maler lyset dit ansigt, så du endelig ligner dig selv.
Du skal ikke skrive om mig! råber den bitre drøm
og lukker sin dør. Den distræte drøm, hvori alting flakker,
forveksler sig selv med en skygge, her er intet at beskytte sig bag,
om så blot en identitet. I feberdrømmen bærer alle
gennemsigtige, fedtede masker. Du kom tilbage til den
som til et parallelunivers og vidste med det samme,
at du var ham.

Portrait of a Young Man

translated from the Danish by the author

—after Giovanni Bellini

In the affectionate dream hair grows everywhere, welcome
to the first stage of love. Look out
for the perilous dream! It will haunt you in the slightest darkness,
leaky as a sewer. Five hundred years from now the clouds
have become digital and your gaze sliced up in small squares, predicts
the prophetic dream. Images within images within images.
Nothing will resemble anything. The ironic dream
pats itself on the shoulder, old boy, then you too
died. In the pious dream, stowed away in a corner,
the light paints your face so that finally you look like yourself.
Don’t write about me! the bitter dream shouts
and closes its door. The absent-minded dream full of flicker
gets itself mixed up with a shadow, there is nothing to hide behind here,
even if just an identity. In the fever dream everyone wears
transparent, greasy masks. You came back to it
as to a parallel universe and immediately knew
that you were him.

Niels Frank, born 1963, published his first book in 1985, a collection of poems called Øjeblikket (The Moment). Since then he has published five books of poems, the latest being Små guder (Small Gods) in 2008. He has also published two books of essays, the latest being Alt andet er løgn (Everything Else is a Lie) from 2007. In 1998 he invented his own genre called metaphorisms in Livet i troperne (Life in the Tropics) which he expanded with new texts as well as photographs in the four-hundred-page book Første person, anden person (First Person, Second Person), published in 2004. He has also written a book of art stories about fifteen well-known artists such as Pablo Picasso, Leonardo da Vinci, Andy Warhol, Albrecht Dürer, and Frida Kahlo. In 2010 he published Spørgespil (Who’s Asking), a prose collection of answers to various questions posed by the writer himself, inspired by Marcel Proust’s famous questionnaire. His first novel, Nellies bog (Nellie’s Book), was published in 2013, written apparently by the protagonist himself despite his great difficulties in writing correctly. It received an award from the Danish Critics Prize as book of the year. In 2015 he published Tristhedens historie (The History of Sadness) a collection of ten portraits of various characters who share the experience of lost hopes and unfulfilled dreams. Vulkaner på månen (Volcanoes on the Moon), a collection of stories about various cities around the world, came out in 2018. Frank is represented in New European Poets, an American anthology published in 2008. In 2011, his poetry collection Én vej from 2005 was translated into English and published in Canada under the title Picture World. He has translated poetry into Danish, notably that of John Ashbery, Anne Carson, Francis Ponge, and Paul Celan. From 1996 to 2002 he was head of the Writers’ School in Copenhagen. In 2009 he received a lifetime award from the Danish state.