Reading: Skylab by Rolf Jacobsen

Norwegian poet Rolf Jacobsen (1907-1994) was a member of the Norwegian national socialist party. What? After the war he was convicted to three and a half years of hard labor. What an asshole! Now, let’s look at a poem of his. Could a nazi even feel the same way we do?

Skylab
We’ve come so far, thought the astronaut
as he swam around the capsule in his third week
and by accident kicked a god in the eye
—so far
that there’s no difference anymore between up and down,
north and south, heavy and light.
And how, then, can we know righteousness.

So far.
And weightless, in a sealed room
we chase the sunrises at high speed
and sicken with longing for a green stalk
or the heft of something in our hands. Lifting a stone.

One night he saw that the Earth was like an open eye
that looked at him as gravely as the eye of a child
awakened in the middle of the night.

I can’t help thinking ‘Shylock’, pardon that ideosyncracy. Perhaps it is not a coincidence. Like the protagonist of the Merchant of Venice, Jacobsen converted to catholicism in 1950.

The astronaut. I hear David Bowie sitting in his tin can. Kicking a god in the eye looks good on paper, maybe it blinded the god though? Like Rolf had been blinded during the nazi occupation? He puts the problem of relativism in a concise way as a confusion of up down north south heavy light.

So he’s flying in that space shuttle around planet earth in the direction of the sun rises, and homesick. When he sees the earth, like the famous blue marble photograph of December 1972 by the Apollo crew (this poem was published in 1979 I believe). The likening of a child that had woken up in the middle of the night, a child in need of our attention, looking at us in a grand Levinassian demanding way, dragging us into the greatest responsibility. Yes, it can come from the pen of someone who has been in the nazi party.

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