Theis Ørntoft

Translated from the Danish by Julia Cohen & Jens Bjering


the tap water tastes of chlorine

Excerpt from Digte 2014

The tap water tastes of chlorine.
Still have a cold. Behind a membrane.
Always has been.
Listening to Burzum and shelving my books
the woman whose house I’ve been renting through the winter
is back from Argentina.
Moved down into the basement now
from here I can hear her trample around in military boots
from here I can lie down and breathe nitrogen over the darkness
after all I went out yesterday
got too restless man, had to get out
I came to the party in the black night
yeah I came to the party in the black night
had walked through fog and snow
people were lying on the wooden floors messing around in the relations
others roamed the corridors
I searched their faces, searched for nearness
but the only thing I found was reptile smiles and black noise without eyes
so let’s say: I get sick of this party and leave it again
let’s say: I sit down on a bench and close my eyes.
Now it’s completely dark.
But then I Google Café Nick.
I Google the address
I Google tomatodress and tomatodoll
I Google Stephane Pompougnac
and spend my money on Kaiserdom and confectionaries
when we talk we export our crises to each other
when we dream the economies run under our skin
there are limits
to how much unemployment democracy can take
there are limits to it all, but I don’t care
I don’t care until it’s too late
and do you know
I think it’s essential in human anno capitalism
DJ Vaginal-Discharge-Tsunami
DJ Future Yeast Cell on the Floor of the Silo
do you know I go insane every time someone says my name
do you know my breathing is a bridge
between two regions of the same
do you know a child is born in a basement of phosphorescence
every time someone is shot in Mexico City
do you know I’m tired of being awake
I’m tired of seeing the planes crash down in the politician’s voice
and hearing the voice unchanged
I’m tired of convincing myself of societies
arctic command
vodka with my whore
tonight, she says
we share our throats with the zebra’s breath
on a vertical continent on black frequency
we unfold the new cities
in the brown puddles with long blond hair
we untie the father from the helicopter’s ropes
and see him stagger into the digital gardens
slimy and confused
there is no joy
there is no grief.


Theis Ørntoft is a Danish poet (b 1984). In 2009, he made his debut with Yeah Suiten, for which he received several national literary prizes and nominations. In 2014, he published his second book, Digte 2014 (Poems 2014). This collection—which made headlines in the Danish mass media—is talking about the state of planet Earth anno 2014, where everything, and every time, seems to have melted together. Capitalism and geology, digital networks and planetary eco systems, inner, mental cartographies and outer physical swamplands all seem to have become part of the same, incomprehensible continuum. With Poems 2014, Theis Ørntoft appears for the first time in American translation.

Julia Cohen's most recent book is a hybrid collection of lyric essays, I Was Not Born (Noemi Press, 2014). Her other books are Collateral Light (Brooklyn Arts Press, 2014) and Triggermoon Triggermoon (Black Lawrence Press, 2011).  Her work appears in journals like DIAGRAM, Colorado Review, Entropy, The Destroyer, and Kenyon Review Online. She lives in Chicago and is looking for snowpants.

Jens Bjering is a PhD candidate at the Department of Arts and Cultural Studies at the University of Copenhagen where he studies American torture after 9/11 in its juridical, cultural, and philosophical context.