Two Prose Poems:
“Illumination” and “Hair”

by Carsten René Nielsen


It is evening, and children costumed as children ring all the doorbells in the neighborhood, but nobody answers: Their parents lie in open coffins that are slowly driven through the street on gun carriages drawn by blind horses. The streetlights are extinguished in respect for the dead, whose translucent bodies are full of radioactive tracers, and light up in the dark.


In the old, now shuttered, barber’s shop two previous customers are sitting in the leather-covered barber’s chairs. Their faces are caved-in; their clothes much too large for their withered bodies. The most strange, tiny black insects are crawling out from their rolled up shirt sleeves. The skin on their forearms looks like the finest, white faience, their veins arabesques painted on with ink. The eyes are open. Dust covers their eyelashes. The barber stands washing the hair of one with very slow movements, but the hair falls out in clumps. He sighs, hums a line from a ballade: “Up from blackened mould the hair is growing,” and then takes out the scissors.

(translated by David Keplinger)


Carsten René Nielsen is a Danish poet who lives in Aarhus, the second largest city of Denmark. He has published nine books of poetry in Danish (1989-2008) including the prose poems Circles (1998), Clairobscur (2001) and Forty-one Animals (2005). He has been awarded the Michael Strunge Poetry Prize and has won several fellowships from the Danish State Foundation for the Arts. "Illumination" and "Hair" appeared in The World Cut Out with Crooked Scissors by Carsten René Nielsen, which was published October 2007, by New Issues Poetry Press (Western Michigan University) in the United States.

David Keplinger is the author of three collections of poetry, most recently The Prayers of Others (2006), which won the Colorado Book Award, and The Clearing (2005). His first collection, The Rose Inside, won the 1999 T.S. Eliot Prize. His essays, translations, and poems have appeared in Poetry, Prairie Schooner, Gettysburg Review, AGNI, Virginia Quarterly Review, Mid-American Review, The American Voice, and many other journals.