Birches

by Pär Hansson


Birches

I watch TV, I watch what is shown. A big, red wooden house is transported

by tractor-trailer along the main street of a small town; the townspeople line the

street and their gazes follow the route of the trailer. An elderly couple has sued the

municipality because two birches on their lot have been cut down without their

permission. The trees were in the way when the house was coming through. The

trees blocked the house’s advance and were sawed down by practiced hands. First

closeup: The old woman’s restrained weeping when she recounts how her own

mother as a young woman planted the two birches. Second closeup: Her

husband’s feet, as if turned to stone, beside the stumps and the sawdust scattered

in the grass. The house is transported through the market town of Vännäs; the

street is lined with people. Men and women nod and chat, children eat candy and

ice cream. It looks like a pageant. Like a string of heads in front of the burning

forest. I see what I see. I see what is visible and sit very close to the TV screen,

run my finger over the dry, dusty glass and try to distinguish the faces in the

crowd.

© Pär Hansson, translated by Rika Lesser