Outgoing Vessel (an excerpt)

translated by Katrine Øgaard Jensen
A black and white photograph of tangled roots at the base of a tree
Photo: Matt Artz


so many dead
their eyeballs are filling this vessel


the earth is a slow fire

re: counting the dead:

I have a strategy in place



longing moves in all directions
like a spherical light scattered around me
I brush my hair in its circle

to be more concise:
human longing scatters like a
BIG BANG around this

around the human
out in the wet grass

it’s this BIG BANG that must be returned in its original condition, 
an infinitely solid sphere;
must be moulded into a hard, smooth material
and placed in the hole below the heart

where it must remain



I have tied the knot with a
it’s taken 1,000 years inside me
I have wrung myself to create
the necessary loop

wrungness caused by external violence
wrungness caused by the exercise of violence
wrungness caused by flight
wrungness caused by care

It’s all there, in the loop created
when I lay my head in my lap

and close the gate



to have marble skin
not as an invitation
but as a bulwark
the strongest there is
the most comfortable
the sacrosanctest




I’m thinking of training my body
until it becomes a rock
that is my objective
the most precise expression of it

it’s better to cut a new one,
to cut anew, and hew from it
a perfect orb
any shape I want
hew from it a
rectangle, cube, almond, moon
AND THEN move in
once it’s done

Translations from the Danish

Photo: Rolando Diaz

Ursula Andkjær Olsen (b. 1970, Copenhagen) made her literary debut in 2000 and has since published nine collections of poetry. Olsen has received numerous grants and awards for her work, including the prestigious Montanaprisen for Det 3. årtusindes hjerte (Third-Millennium Heart) and the Danish Critics’ Prize for its sequel, Udgående Fartøj (Outgoing Vessel).

Photo: Chuck Kuan

Katrine Øgaard Jensen is a writer and translator whose work has been published in the Columbia Journal, Washington Square Review, Arc Poetry Magazine, Denver Quarterly, and elsewhere. Her translation of Ursula Andkjær Olsen’s poetry collection Third-Millennium Heart was recently shortlisted for the Best Translated Book Award and longlisted for the National Translation Award. She lives in New York City where she edits EuropeNow.