Iowa Writes

MARJAN STROJAN
In Our Small Room, Imperceptibly


Swedenborg reports that, in a way of speaking,
the act of passage is a matter of detail.
When he is no more, man is not conscious
of his moment. He walks the streets and
the riverbanks, his friends come to pay him
a visit, they drink tea, banks and churches go
on with their business, cats keep themselves
warm in the sun, the army is in a state of alert.
Tea tastes like tea, friends discuss football,
the radio is on, parents complain what all this
is leading up to. We imagine that the time

of the passage is shrouded in mist, because
our senses die off, etc. Then there is also
the possibility of death making them sharper. 
But it is not so. Imperceptibly, in our small
room things take up a different shape. We see
there is more colour to the world than we were
used to take notice of. Turning the high street
the late night tram utters an indescribable
sound; the language of humans and animals
is transformed into unintelligible music;
a muted conversation in the café is full of light.

Swedenborg reports that, in a way of speaking,
the act of passage is a matter of detail.
When he is no more, man is not conscious
of his moment. He walks the streets and
the riverbanks, his friends come to pay him
a visit, they drink tea, banks and churches go
on with their business, cats keep themselves
warm in the sun, the army is in a state of alert.
Tea tastes like tea, friends discuss football,
the radio is on, parents complain what all this
is leading up to. We imagine that the time

of the passage is shrouded in mist, because
our senses die off, etc. Then there is also
the possibility of death making them sharper. 
But it is not so. Imperceptibly, in our small
room things take up a different shape. We see
there is more colour to the world than we were
used to take notice of. Turning the high street
the late night tram utters an indescribable
sound; the language of humans and animals
is transformed into unintelligible music;
a muted conversation in the café is full of light. 

Still we carry on as if nothing had happened.
We keep up with our dates, with our musical
recitals, with our Sunday outings to the lake;
every so often we would go to the movies
or to the theatre. But we don’t pick up phones,
since the contents of the calls are known to us
in advance; we read books in languages we
never learned to speak; we notice the florist
whom we have last seen in our childhood
giving us a nod of recognition. There would be
unposted letters and complete strangers arriving

at our doorstep, we would speak to them under
the passageways, on the roof tops and terraces,
in the suburbs, where, had it been otherwise,
we would never have cared to venture. All this
may go on for weeks, months, even years.
By then one is made aware of who the callers
were and what he himself has become; he
makes ready for his moving away, takes leave
of his friends and relatives, who seem strangely
unbaffled by his decision. Then comes the day
when he takes off in one of the Charon buses

and riding with a strange taste of copper in his
mouth comes into a high valley of fens and gorges
with big cities and towns, many of them devastated
and charred as if consumed by fires. The sky
is dark and deep with no stars and no sun. Soon,
without realising how, he starts coming into
an office, finds himself a job, recognising in his
superiors the visitors of his unlikely conversations.
His is a world of conspiring and hatred, fast
decisions and summary injustice, where everybody
gets promoted and nobody seems excessively

unhappy. A place of blooming opportunities
and uninterrupted promotion. On one occasion
he takes part in a secret meal where they are
shown the world of the sun and the celestial
bodies, which he rejects. Then, on another, they
visit the park opposite the music school where
he used to teach and where he now watches
the undergraduates, entangled in the network
of time, sitting on the grass, resonating like an
old piano concerto he remembers from a long
time ago. He declines any suggestion of return.

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About Iowa Writes

Since 2006, Iowa Writes has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers (whether they have Iowa roots or live here now) and work published by Iowa journals and publishers on The Daily Palette. Iowa Writes features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction twice a week on the Palette.

In November of 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Iowa City has joined Edinburgh, Scotland and Melbourne, Australia as UNESCO Cities of Literature.

Find out more about submitting by contacting iowa-writes@uiowa.edu


MARJAN STROJAN

Marjan Strojan, a Slovenian writer, participated in the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program in 2005. He is the author of four poetry collections. “In Our Small Room, Imperceptibly” first appeared in The Iowa Review’s Fall 2006 issue.

International Writing Program

This page was first displayed
on January 21, 2007

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