I was heading to the basement when
our farmhand came running through
the back door. “Hanne, Hanne,”
he shouted out to my mother
in the kitchen preparing dinner.

He sounded strange and my mother
appeared terrified in the corridor
“Christian has fallen from the scaffold
hit his head, he is unconscious.
You’d better call for an ambulance.”

I hovered on the stairs, half- way down,
not knowing if I should still descend
the basement to obtain the loaf of bread
lying in the freezer, our lunch time
snack. I didn’t know. Nobody told me.

Mother and farmhand ran from the house.
I was alone. My sister, three months old,
slept in her cot while I spent my time
staring from windows to catch a glimpse
of my father through the arches of the barn.

It was dark in there. I watched the builders
working on the new stable, drop tools, crawl
from the roof, each one running through
the barn doors never to emerge from the quiet.
I waited for an ambulance or someone to come.

Then there it was, upon me, the dopplered
siren, the flash of blue, so fascinating, so
intense as it rounded the yard as the farmhand
rushed from the barn, telling me over again
my father was bad but in the best hands.

I was more interested to see if there was
blood, if his skull had been crushed.
I had often seen a cow or a pig bleeding
from the head, knew the vet sometimes
came to kill them. The fear was a buzz inside me.

A little later, my grandma from Sjørring
came to take care of me, even though
I wanted my grandma from Nors to come.
She hoisted me onto her lap, told me
repeatedly my father was unconscious.

‘Is it like being dead?’ I asked, but Grandma
frowned at the question, dropped me
to the floor, ‘he has hit his head’
she repeated, ‘he is unconscious,
but he is certainly, certainly not dead’.

I made myself cry. ‘Maybe we should
pray to God, maybe he can do something?’
Grandma embraced me then, saying God
could do anything he wanted so we sat
on the couch praying for father’s survival.

We prayed a lot, hands clasped together
hoping that God would help, the more
I prayed the more certain I was. I prayed
all night and when I began to fall asleep,
I heard Grandma praying beside me.

The next morning when I woke, I ran to the kitchen to find Grandma
sitting at the long table. ‘My father’ I asked, ‘is he alright?’
and she said he was. ‘Then he might come back today?’ I asked
but she said no, it would take longer than that and then she smiled
hoisting me on to her lap, but he would at least come home?

‘No, it’s going to take a long time
before he comes home again,’
my grandmother said.

(Translated by Peter Graarup Westergaard/Mary-Jane Holmes)

You can buy ‘Danish Northwest – Hygge Poems from the Outskirts” here: https://www.troubador.co.uk/bookshop/poetry-short-stories-and-plays/danish-northwest/