12.22.2016

"The Skerry" by Knut Hamsun

my translation of "Skærgaardsø" from Det Vilde Kor, 1904

The boat drifts now
towards a skerry,
an isle in the sea
its shores luxuriant.
Flowers grow there
never before seen,
they stand like strangers
and watch my landing.

My heart is more and more
like a mythic garden
with flowers like these
on the island.
They talk with one another
and whisper strangely,
like children meeting
with laughter and curtsies.

Perhaps I was here
at the dawn of time
as a white Spiraea
waiting to be found.
That fragrance I know
from long ago,
I tremble amidst
my memory of it.

I close my eyes,
the distant recollection
passes from my head
down to my shoulders.
The night is thickening
over the island,
the sea is thundering –
Nirvana's thunder.

12.04.2016

"My Grave" by Knut Hamsun

my translation of "Gravsted" from Det Vilde Kor, 1904

No, dear Lord, do not let me die
under blankets and sheets
and with all that crying at my bedside.
Let me be struck down one day unexpectedly
and fall in the forest someplace
where no one can find me.

I know the forest well, for I am its son,
it will not deny my humble request
to lay at last on its cowberry bog.
Thus will I give back, without speeches and fuss,
my great corpse to all its animals,
to the crows, the rats and the flies.

Yes, yes, I will offer them a feast when I die,
a feast to give all those beaks and claws and teeth
a great task to engage in.

But the squirrel looks on askance
and watches from his branch with eyes alert,
almost human eyes, that little one.

A generous portion for each it will be, 
enough to satisfy an army even
and picked clean I will be at the table.
An eagle stripping bare my bones,
staying until everything is eaten,
before drawing in his talons.

And into late evening and all night long
the glorious sounds of a corpse in song
as lovely as the ringing of bells.
Then a last ovation for me,
from the owl herself,
in the hooting of a simple oath.

And when all that is left of my earthly remains
is at dawn hidden in a leafy grave
a joyous night will have ended.
Farewell, my friends! I have fed the whole lot of you!
— But all these leaves, from where have they come?
Of course, the winds have swept them together.

11.05.2016

Blood

It is old, the blood. To translate these words of Norwegian Bokmål into English is a sort of memory. My lineage is Swedish, not Norwegian, but its all the same. These are shared words of Northern Men, Norsemen. I am a Norseman, or I should be. Because I am a Norseman only in instinct. That I long for herring or the sardines of King Oscar, or that I fish on the frozen lakes; that the cold is indifferent to me-- I cannot ignore it. 

These globalists and their cabal have drawn me into their economies around the world. I have traveled widely, it seems at their behest, to unwittingly spread their gospel. I have been a willing lieutenant in their command. I speak French and Spanish now, I speak a bit of Hungarian and Bulgarian. I know global finance. I understand the in-s and out-s of their project, and how I can benefit from it economically. 

But its all bollocks. 

I am at peace when fishing on a frozen lake. My blood needs only this. It is all my blood ever needed. My grandfather Nils tried to return the family to that place, to a lake in central Wisconsin, a lake his own father Hans, a Swede by birth, had chosen and fished upon and intended to make his final home. 

My grandfather came there after years and years in American cities, from New York to San Francisco, to at last show his sons that this was where they should settle. But it didn't work out. I know his plans. I have my grandfather's books. I have his writing. I spoke often with my grandfather when I came up to WI for the winter fishing. I know what he hoped for.

The land cannot be owned, finally. A man will die and his land will be translated into the new generations. The sons of my grandfather, of course, did not see it as he did. My father, the best of them, has preserved what he could preserve. But land cannot live in preservation. Land can only live outside what the humans would foist upon it. For it is not life otherwise. 

So I translate Hamsun. 

I remember. 

It is a long memory. Swen in Hulu, yes, a man of my lineage from the 17th century, identified by my grandfather Nils. 

I don't know what else there is. I must return to what is oldest. The global agenda is wrong. It doesn't fit with my blood. Do not turn the world a tawny shade of brown and atheist. Do not turn the world into a mediocre class of english speaking wage slaves. Do not let the last languages, the last pagans of the North, disappear.

10.22.2016

"In One Hundred Years Everything Is Forgotten" by Knut Hamsun

my translation of "Om Hundrede Aar Er Alting Glemt" from Det Vilde Kor, 1904

Tonight I'm drifting, brooding and conflicted,
I feel like a capsized boat,
and for all I moan about and all I suffer
I see no resolution.
    But why should I be so deeply troubled?    
    In one hundred years everything is forgotten.

Yes, I prance about and sing songs
and live my life like a beautiful novel.
I eat at God's side like a full-grown troll
and drink like the devil himself.
    But why should I continue on with this buffoonery?
    In one hundred years everything is forgotten.

Better to put an end to this struggle
by walking into the sea with my tormented soul.
There the world will find me one day
dead by bitter drowning.
    But why should I come to such a bad end?
    In one hundred years everything is forgotten.

Oh no, it's better to wander and to live
and write a book for every year to come
and to soar at last on the noblest of lines
and die as a master of the novel.
    Since there is only this, I lose all hope:
    In one hundred years everything is forgotten.


This poem set to music by the Norwegian band Lumsk

10.17.2016

Working Class Alpha, Part I

Its damned hard generating alpha as a working man. Alpha, as an individual's return beyond the average or expected return, is how a fella evaluates where he is. As a futures trader back in the day I had a lot of alpha. I shit alpha for fun. For years I traded no more than a couple hours a day, netted a few grand, and pickled my liver and watched the Yankees. Its not like that anymore. This working life kick I'm on now is something else. 

They've made it damned hard for a working man to make any money. He's got no defense against the MBA cost cutters. The unions are broken or irrelevant. Foreign labor will work for less, accept very low standards of living, and the borders for cheap labor have been opened internationally. Labor is a cost input and the banks and holders of assets expect ever increasing returns. And it is labor that has born that sacrifice to make these returns possible. 

At Home Depot I discovered the only way to save any money was to sleep in your car. You could get a 24 hr gym membership for showers and exercise. To really earn as a minimum wage man you also needed overtime. Running two or more minimum wage jobs was hell (I watched a few guys dying from that along with their alimony payments) and getting from one job to the other reduced essential sleep time (and time for reading and writing). This led to my realization that the ideal minimum wage job would have the potential for overtime but more importantly would pay for room and board. 

It was then that I discovered cannery work in Alaska. A good 3 month salmon season meant 18 hour days without a day off. Alaska's overtime laws are not ideal compared to the Lower 48, but food (as bad as it is) and housing (also poor) are provided to cannery workers. 

Like all of today's minimum wage jobs, these cannery jobs were once lucrative and excellent. Only Alaskans did them. But private equity hit commercial fishing and its all changed. While still a good deal relative to Lower 48 minimum wage work, because food and housing is provided, no Alaskan will work for those wages. Alaska is expensive, and you can't survive the winter when work is limited to minimum wage pay during the short summer. So its only foreigners and Lower 48 rejects who do that work now. For me, it ended up being a good deal while I did it: working summers in Alaska and saving the money for living the rest of the year in Colombia. Throw in six months of unemployment payments from AK and it was an even sweeter arbitrage. 

But now I'm living full time in the Lower 48. Expenses are up, though at least Texas has no state tax. I realized here there was really only one other way to work and have my housing paid for: commercial trucking. 

But OTR truck driving has also gone to hell. The foreigners have been brought in and pay per mile has dropped, despite there being a driver shortage (what a great opportunity for the Teamsters or some union--incredible that drivers can't band together to improve their pay). But as with cannery work I was drawn to truck driving because housing is paid for: you sleep in your truck. 

ZIRP and NIRP (zero interest and negative interest rate central bank policies) have greatly increased the values of assets, especially housing. All this while wages for working men have been stagnant or dropped. A working man now has to sacrifice if he is to get ahead, and housing is that essential sacrifice. A fella interested in getting ahead cannot afford to pay rent. To generate alpha this critical expense on the liability side of the balance sheet must be reduced or eliminated. As working men make so little, alpha generation must come not from income, but from liability reduction. 

And other sacrifices must be made. Health insurance must be eliminated. Fortunately, Obamacare penalties are basically cheap put options for the opportunity to buy insurance if one becomes ill. If you're young and physically training these puts are dirt cheap and insurance is really irrelevant. Anyway, its likely if a younger healthy working man gets sick he's got a bitch of a sickness and probably on his way out, insurance or not.  

OTR truck driving offers the chance to drive up to 70 hours every 8 days, as per DOT regulations. Pay is by the mile and a beginning driver can start to calculate that he has a chance at some decent money. But then he discovers the regulations: no more than 11 hours of drive time daily; no more than 14 hours of drive and and on duty time daily; a mandatory 10 hour break off duty between driving periods; a mandatory 34 hour off duty period to reset his 8 day 70 hour clock; etc. etc. 

Then there are the restrictions of your company, such as an engine governor that stops you from driving faster than 60 mph despite Texas highway speeds of up to 80mph. They've outfitted the truck with all sorts of electronics that report on a driver and restrict him. Then the new driver discovers he's blowing drive time off his 14 hour clock while sitting through 3 hours live unloads of his trailer. 

He starts to think he's bitched. He's forced to drive 20 mph under the speed limit because of the company governor and that, he calculates, is costing him 200 miles a day in paid miles. He's stuck loading and unloading trailers with slow moving hourly and salaried workers who could care less about his DOT clock ticking down. He loses drive time there. He's dealing with Trans Flo and bill of lading paperwork, updating permit books, evaluating a truck and trailer mechanically for possible problems and potential DOT inspection fines, the scaling loads at CAT scales--all this unpaid and reducing his drive time and sleep time. 

But if you sit a man in a truck, with hours and hours to think as he drives across the country on the highways, he will think up ways around the DOT clock, ways around the company truck's restrictions ... (Part II to come)

9.11.2016

"Fever Poem" by Knut Hamsun

my translation of "Feberdigte" from Det Vilde Kor, 1904

I

I find myself led to
the crossroads of everything,
of her, of earth and God.
She opened the door to herself,
Then farewell, —
she was gone.

II

Now autumn comes over the Lord's land,
sunless, oppressive, evil days,
Life gives and takes back,
everything comes to naught in the choir of the perished.
    But man lives so long.

Now heaped in the barn and gathered at the house,
The grass is harvested and the grain is cut,
The leaves fall, all consumed,
brought back into death's roar.
    But man lives so long.

III

May God punish you, Alvilde,
you extinguished all my passion
and took back your word
and sent me off so brutally.
I guess I've a long road again
and there is no sun on it.
May God punish you, Alvilde.

May God uplift you, Alvilde,
Giving thanks for every minute.
You gave me many names
and called me your boy.
You offered me your hand and mouth
and you were mine for a little while.
May God uplift you, Alvilde.

IV

Listen here, what is this silent terror
that now slips into my senses,
that sneers through the whites of my open eyes
and makes my mouth pale and oddly distorted?
At the wellspring of fate, is that where I drunkenly lay?
Gibberish fills me, O God.

V

Something makes me shiver and I can't make sense of it:
Why is the grain cut and why do the leaves fall?
Why does the life of summer crumble away into dust?
Why does grass grow only to wither away?
I think on in this way.

The grain is for satisfying the hungry
and the grass turns green so that it may wither to hay.
And the leaves of the grove make shade from the sun.
But me — why should I scatter seeds of joy
if I am to die?

I cried out and demanded of the foaming seas,
of the forests and the mountains and the rushes,
of the stones and storms and the vast heavens,
and anything that would listen:
Did I ask to be born?

But the heavens and storms and stones were silent.

VI

Alvilde, I remember that last night,
    you cried out: Kneel!
    I drank from your shoe
    and everyone laughed.
I did it to cheer your spirit.

Alvilde, then you held out a flower.
    I kept on my way.
    The look you gave me
    stung pleasantly.
I stumbled out. It was pitch dark.

VII

Now the autumnal wind is howling
    as the rains pound against my window,
a chill flows through my veins
    colder than the wind outside.
There arises within me
    the stench of a poisonous flower in bloom,
    lingering on in my nostrils.
It sprouts from the garden of hatred.

It is boiling, it is boiling. I try
    in vain to fall asleep,
I hear the flag line's neverending
    banging against the pole,
the creaking of doors, a sneaking about
    on tiptoe, there are footsteps in the hallway,
my heart suddenly pounds
    like the baying of hell hounds.
It is boiling, boiling, boiling.

VIII

Alvilde, get my cloak and my hat with the feathers on top,
I intend to soon go out riding.
Hold out the clothes on their hangers, slave, while I get up
and then run along at my side.

I will seek out from where comes this strange windy weather
that blows down from the mountains,
it will be me who is coming, it will be me on horseback
and you running like a dog at my side.

Hey, now striking at my steed, for I am in a hurry,
Riding on a tour of my kingdom.
Then you collapse, Alvilde, so I bind you tight, —
Dear God, I am riding the life out of you, girl.

IX

It is boiling, it is boiling, this weather and wind.
I hear a knocking.
Come in!
There is nobody outside the door.

I see the first day of creation,
the smoking newborn world,
I see myself, alive.
Standing at the earth's outermost limit
and from the clouds looking out over all that was created
I am struck dumb . . . . .
When in my life did I lay in darkness?
Onward, my blood horse, I ride on an anvil,
I am made of red bricks, red as blood,
I have eaten the yellow lining of my hat.
Say, isn't someone knocking at the door?

That fog I see, is it the land of the dead?
There is a lifeless sea out there
and in the middle of the sea an island born blind:
it is the land of the dead.
I come, I spread out my arms
and sink with you evermore .  .  .  .  .

X

So many days have now gone by, and the days pass quickly.
    My soul is fresh and cold and hard,
    an autumn has stormed by into spring.
I'm not complaining anymore, I nod silently to everything, smiling.

Why should sorrow fill the hills with tumult
    and make its stamp on every path to a soul's fulfillment?
    I stomp with a defiant heel on
that sorrow I have no place for on my good, old shoulders.

I wander into the woods, a ruler without a kingdom,
    a bent man, an elevated spirit,
    a fallen foot, a clenched fist,
and am greeted with swords like a conqueror.

But late at night I sit and hear the scythes being sharpened
    and footsteps as the earth turns.
    A face appears in a yonder cloud.
And an organ from the wasteland thunders out one last, long mass. 

8.09.2016

Accident


Honor. Personal honor, is essential. It is why the best men act in the best ways. Honor between men allows the world to operate more smoothly. When another man comes to me, even a stranger, and with urgence explains how I have been in error, I am likely to believe him, to accept that I have been at fault. 

Today I was wrong to believe what another man claimed to have seen me do. My acceptance of a personal failure based upon another man's word was in error. 

After one year of driving I was obliged to be sent out for a road test with a burly toothless man named Mark with an official title of OSR. As it goes with acronyms, they once stood for something but are now simply letters. This OSR was to test my driving ability. They are also safety professionals who interview and evaluate drivers after accidents. 

This OSR Mark gave me a challenging test of buttonhook turn after buttonhook turn around Love Field in Dallas. I knew company policy was for double-clutch shifting, so I tried to do some of that to start but soon stopped as I realized Mark, the OSR, was an alright guy, a driver of many miles and years. He said nothing about my floating gears. He was a driver after all and we both knew company policy on double clutching and being out on the road were quite different things. Everybody who fucking knows floats, I thought to myself. Let this motherfucker fail me for floating without a single goddamn grind then. I knew he was honest enough not to and he didn't say anything. I had shown a few double clutches to start and now the floating was understood.

We came back to the syrup plant after the test and met a long line of trucks waiting to enter. I put my flashers on and we waited on the roadway and me the OSR and talked. The security guard came out from the plant and said it was shit show in the yard, which was already very tight for parking but was now nearly impassable with trucks and trailers. 

After nearly an hour on the road waiting we finally were able to enter the plant and a tight turn against a backed up truck was the start of it. Sure enough, it was goddamn shit show in there. I weasled in between some other trucks and there were a couple spots to park my trailer but near impossible blindside backs would be required. I continued on. No doubt the drivers ahead of us had passed those up too. 

There was a spot then along the fence but I would need to turn the truck around to not go blindside into it. It was going to be very tight to turn between the rows of trailers but it was possible. I told the OSR that was our spot and started the turn, lining up the trailer as close to the parked trailers on the far side and then slowly bringing the cab around, watching the cab ferrings as they came closer, closer, closer, now nearly against my trailer. Now my cab was going to clip the trailers parked on the other side of the yard. It was damned tight. I stopped to back it up a little.

"You're gonna hit the wings." said the OSR.

"Its alright," I said. I back it up a bit. I'm watching the ferring, which he was calling "wings" which I had not heard before. I didn't need this genius to tell me what to worry about. I backed it up just to give room for the trailer at my bumper and pressed the ferring even closer to my trailer.

"The wings," he said.

This OSR was a worrier. 

"The ferrings are fine," I said. "There's room." I pulled slowly forward with just centimeters of clearance on my bumper on the trailer in front, my eye on the ferrings of the cab on the passenger side--still undamaged--but right damned now flush with my trailer, and I pulled the trailer as tight as a motherfucker between those two rows of trailers and free to go back and properly park that trailer in the spot behind us. It would not be a blindside back into that spot now. All those other drivers had passed up that spot because they couldn't spin a trailer around between the rows. It was my spot now. Fuckem.

Then I see this negro company driver gesturing at me. He was behind me as I was turning and now in front as I came back towards my spot. I rolled down the window on the OSR's side.

"What the hell you think he wants?" I said.

The negro rolls down his window. "You hit that truck," he says. 

"What truck?"

"Your trailer hit that truck back there," he says. 

I stop, throw on the air brakes and rush out.

Behind us there's a white day cab, company truck, nobody in it, parked nose in along the wall. I know with my tandems all the way forward I have a lot of tail swing and tail swing I can't see on the driver side on a tight right turn. I knew I would be near to that day cab on the turn but didn't even consider that I could touch it. 

I inspect the day cab. There's a big dent in the side of it. 

The negro driver is driving off up the ramp. I wave him down. Did I dent the side of the cab, I ask him. No, he says. He says I clipped his mudflap. I go take a look at the mudflap. It looks a little bent, perhaps like something has clipped it. But the bracket is undamaged. Also the distance between the mudflap and rear tandem tire is only a few inches and the tire is untouched. If I had gotten the back edge of my trailer in there on the turn it was only by the slightest of margins. Still, this fella said he had seen it. I went back to the cab.

"He says I hit him," I said to the OSR. "I guess I got to report it." I couldn't believe it.

"Yes," says the OSR. 

So begins the company process of accident reporting. I call a number, give my driver number, the number of the other truck, and explain the accident. Of course, I didn't see it. Some guy I don't even know his name or truck number saw it. I take a picture of the creased mudflap and send it in to the investigatory unit. 

I go back to meet the OSR and sign paperwork for my one year driving test. He has to fail me on account of the accident.  

But it was a fluke, he says. He doesn't believe the accident even happened. I said I didn't either. How could that guy have seen it from his tractor? he says. How could he have seen what was for him the blind side corner of a trailer on the tightest of turns clipping a mudflap from 100 meters away? 

"He didn't believe I could twist the trailer around to take that open spot in the yard," I said. "And you didn't believe it either," I said to the OSR. "You thought I was going to fuck up the ferrings."

"I thought so," he admitted. 

"You didn't say nothing about that other parked truck," I said. 

"I don't think it happened," he says. He puts out his pen and and keys on the table in the positions of where we were, the day cab and the other driver. The way our trailer twisted it would be impossible to see any clipping of the mudflap by the other driver. 

"He didn't think I could twist it around for the spot," I said. "That's all. He didn't want to believe that I could do it." 

The OSR then had me take an accident and re-training course on a computer. I had to put on headphones and watch an animated man in khaki pants and a blue shirt explain safe driving techniques. While I was taking the course the OSR interrupted me and said he was going to make a phone call and that I shouldn't listen or be disturbed by him talking beside me during the accident course. He asked me for my accident claim number. He asked for the company accident report number and made a call. I listened to him explain to the person on the other end that he was an OSR and was in the cab with me and that he believed there had been no accident. He wanted his testimony put down as evidence for the accident investigators. He tapped me on the shoulder when the call was finished. He knew I had been listening. 

He was 19 years in the company and a long time OTR driver. He had seen immediately what kind of driver I was. He knew of the injustices. But I knew that he had to protect himself. He had to make me report on myself for an accident he doubted had occurred. Now, perhaps, his conscience as an OTR driver and not as an OSR company man had been activated. Still, I had reported myself and he was fully protected. 

Later that night I realized it was now necessary to un-report this accident. I had been in error to accept the anonymous negro's report. The negro, I realized, had seen nothing. Nobody in the investigatory unit even knew his name or truck number. I had reported upon myself out of some errant sense of honor, an honor I assumed other men had of themselves. I realized it may very well have been something else: a man watching another driver execute the tightest of whip around turns between rows of trailers for a spot numerous other drivers had passed up in frustration and not believed was possible. The next day I would have to call my dispatcher and demand that I be un-reported for the accident. It would be the only honorable thing to do.
 
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