Water, Rather than Oil

Came across this little poem by Gunnar Ekelöf in a translation by Steven Fowler on the Nthposition site which is introduced as “a monthly article series with www.Nthposition.com focused on European poets perhaps overlooked in the Anglo-American tradition.” Besides a good intro essay on Ekelöf, it also features three new translations, including the one below (which of course all of a sudden rhymes strangely with events here, today, in the U.S.):

The purifying well

Give me water
Not to drink
But to wash myself
I do not ask for oil
Give me fresh water
See how worms breed in my armpits
On my left thigh on my right
Amid my thighs
Boils supurate
I can pull the skin from the soles of my feet
Grant me your water to wash myself in
Not your oil
Oil I refuse
Give me water

from Diwan över Fursten av Emgión (Diwan on the Prince of Emgion) 1965

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