Marianne Koluda Hansen

--translations by Michael Goldman




Merethe wrings out the floor rag
and slings it through the air
with a very particular throw
that makes it spread out
flat on the floor
she has learned that throw
from her more experienced colleagues
she cleans in a department store
to pay for college
she certainly could have gotten help from home
but you really want to make it on your own
when you have gotten
to be twenty-seven

and besides it’s also healthy
to have tried a little of everything
especially when you’re going to be an architect
and be out making
living spaces for The People
she loves The People
and The Ruling Class can stick it
with its ideologies and soup spoons
and golf and tennis and the whole shooting match
it’s the Workers’ interests she’ll be out attending to
and it’s like you feel a lot more
solidarity with the Working Class
when you have seen them
up close
and felt their problems
with your own body

at the very start
she didn’t like going
into the canteen at all
when all the warehouse staff were in there
they spoke so crudely
and not because she was a prude
but did they have to come right out and advertise
their trashy

Nils has teased her about it:
for a true socialist like her
it must really
be awesome
with a whole canteen full
of genuine workers
she realizes this
and eventually
as she has gotten used to their language
she also thinks
that they are really interesting
to study
and in a way actually very nice too

and she sure meets an awful lot of
repressed women
she’ll never forget
Mrs. Karlsen’s legs:
completely blue with repression
when she comes tottering
to fill her cleaning bucket
and there are many others
whose hands are marked
by lifelong toil:
red and rough
and still
they look as if
they could stroke so infinitely gentle
over the hot forehead of a fevered child

and Merethe
doesn’t look down on those women
even though they maybe
can seem a bit one-dimensional
in a way she can actually
admire them
for their indomitable courage
and ability to
be satisfied with little
when it comes down to it
they are no doubt much happier
than herself
don’t place such high
expectations on life
and then that solidarity
there’s a lot more cohesiveness
in the Worker Class
but of course they are also raised to
sort of think more collectively

and Merethe has a nice time with them
smokes Cecils with them
drinks coffee and eats pastries with them
shares their small and great sorrows
gets them to really open up
because you know they come from environments
where you don’t really
talk about feelings
and Merethe
thinks she learns a lot from that

no, she’s never been any kind of a snob
has no illusions about herself
just because a person has a diploma and so on
she can simply
feel herself completely touched
at the thought of
how much solidarity she has

but she cannot stand
meeting any of the female clerks
they stare at her
rubber gloves
and light blue smock
smile snobbishly
and you have to take it
despite your own
judgment-free and straight-forward
attitude of solidarity
those bitches
she has half a mind
to show them who she really is

she wishes
that some French men would come
to shop for a leather couch
and none of those floozies
could speak a word of French
then she could just step forward
carry out the whole transaction
and leave those floozies there
full of wonder over
who that cleaning lady was
since she spoke fluent French

or if she got famous one day
and was interviewed by one of those magazines
that those pathetic geese
definitely read:
the architect’s home is decorated in white and purple
the marble bathtub
is rectangular
here Mrs. Architect spends
most of her limited free time
drinking semi-dry white wine from paper cups
reading African poetry
that would be good for those conceited floozies






she had been looking forward to having vacation
was so stressed out every day
now she was going to really
relax and enjoy it
read a little
bike ride out in nature
have time for the kids
play a little
(she took guitar lessons at night school
and never had time to practice)

the last week before vacation
she had been so busy:
made a meal plan
bought extra groceries
filled the freezer
did lots of laundry
cleaned thoroughly     
so she wouldn’t have to think about
things like that over vacation

she had been looking forward to having vacation
but what was there to do really
those books
she had thought she would read
didn’t interest her anyway
the kids would rather
go out and play soccer
they were of course not used to
their mother having time
and what would she
have done with them anyway
and she didn’t get out in nature either
where should she ride her bike to
and what was there to think about 
while she was riding

her days tended to be
like textbooks
densely written
with just precisely enough room to
write a few small notes
and draw faces
and doodles
out in the margin
the days of vacation
lay before her
like a notebook
with blank pages
it scared her

she went down to get cigarettes
gradually came to better understand her father
who had begun smoking again
a week after
he took an
early reitrement
at the time she had thought
that he was pretty dumb
when now he had quit
for exactly two years

she had been looking forward to having vacation
and now here she just sat
and glanced through a magazine
went out on the deck
and in again
had a sandwich
went to bed
and masturbated
the nails on her right hand
cut into the sensitive skin
and she bit them off
so now she couldn’t
play guitar either

she had been looking forward to having vacation
now she was looking forward
to the end of it
she saw that the curtains needed
to be washed
this made her glad:
now there was at least something
she could do
and the day after tomorrow
fortunately was the last day



        return to poetry

Born on the island of Bornholm,Marianne Koluda Hansen (1951-2014) lived most of her life in Copenhagen, Denmark, where she wrote four books of poetry and two novels. Although she never achieved much fame as a writer during her lifetime, her books garnered reviews that highlighted her brutal honesty and her ability to mine and acknowledge the deep emotions in everyday events that people usually try to ignore. She received her teaching degree in 1979 and taught English and Danish at a school for adults for 30 years. She was also a successful painter who held several exhibitions.

By translating a Danish copy of Catcher in the Rye word for word, Michael Goldman taught himself the language over 30 years ago to win the heart of a lovely Danish girl. He has received eight translation grants for his work with 6 distinguished Danish writers, among them Denmark’s all-time best-selling poet Benny Andersen. Two of Goldman's translations of Andersen will appear in our upcoming Summer 2016 issue. In addition to publishing audiobooks of works by Hansen, Andersen, and Knud Sørensen, over 80 of Michael’s translations have appeared in more than 30 literary journals since 2012. He lives in Florence, Massachusetts. Read more at