Chaos: A Codex (Three Poems) by Katrine Jensen



Vanitas Spectabilis

Its stem carries the color

of ravenous ideas,

each leaf coated

with shimmering skin,

roots extending deep

into the very sex

of the paralyzed planet.

It feeds on every resource

for thousands of years

until no other organism

is left alive:

this is where it peaks,

where it reaches

the pinnacle of bloom,

becomes the most

stunning pandemonium

in this universe-

eighteen zeptoseconds,

and then it dies.


Bullitus Celatum

A bubble, forever on the edge of bursting:

phosphor yellow and filled with secrets,

its inhabitants must creep, lizard-like,

to not upset the surface.

Conversations are shadows of conversations, 

all whispers swarming aloft. 

The youths hang from factory ceilings

in sedated cocoons

before transforming into quiet.

Once or twice a year, a fool attempts to stand

on two legs and raise his voice, shaking

the entire planet.

The youths awaken briefly,

always unaware

of what to rise against.


Fera Occupatus

These lumpy beasts never cease to move.

Enormous, flat instruments fixed to their backs 

give away the position of shadow.

They are ancient

sundials in motion:

lumbering for their lives,

monitoring gloom, faithfully

following the planet’s rotation

to exist 

only in sun.

How accurately spineless

the way they never stop

to consider

living outside of light.


Katrine Øgaard Jensen is a Danish writer and translator who works as an editor-at-large for Asymptote and the editor-in-chief for Columbia: A Journal of Literature and Art, and is one of the judges for the prestigious Best Translated Book Award. A two-time Thanks To Scandinavia scholar and recipient of grants from several Danish foundations, she is currently pursuing an M.F.A. in creative writing at Columbia University, majoring in fiction and literary translation.