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In english

Jenny Wrangborg is a cook and a poet. She lives in Stockholm and have for the last 15 years been working in kitchens in Sweden, Canada and Norway. Her poetry and prose concerns working conditions in the restaurant industry, solidarity and shortcomings of the struggle to unionize a sector of the economy where few of the workers are organized and the employers are ruthless. The collection Kitchen (Kallskänken) released in 2010, was a huge success, praised by readers and critics alike and sold in over 8000 copies.

Her latest collection of poems “What should we do with each other” (Vad ska vi göra med varandra) was released in 2014 and revolves around a society that is falling apart but the poems also describes the hope in the fact that everything could be changed.

2017 Wrangborg was the editor of the anthology “Loose relations – the struggle for steady employment in the retail industry”. The book deals with questions about surveilleance, hourly work and other working conditions for shop- and stock workers. The book is now being printed in 25 000 copies to be used in the labour movement.

Following poems are from both collections, and most of them have been translated together with Freke Räihä. We are currently looking for a English publisher.

 

If you wish to read more poems in english please contact Jenny through e-mail.

 

 

War alarm

have you heard coffee cups bang against coffee cups
the murmur of an attacking army
standing with your stomach leaned against the bench
with hands building shrimp sandwiches and feet
aching from the weight
pulled between
the roar of freezers
and the screams of the cash-line
in today’s
race against the clock
inexorably ticking past the lunch break
beneath the sizzle from the coffee machine
the pop music from the speakers
families, children screaming on the terrace
to the tweet from the microwave ovens
the machine gun clatter of the order frequency
and the juice presser that presses the last few drops
out of us

 

 

 

The uniform

after tonight’s shift
we wipe the cloth one last time over the counter
setting in order the mise en place for tomorrow,
correcting the chaos
wrapping the muffins, polishing the display stands,
locking the door and turning off the lights

in the locker room
we glide out of our uniforms,
tie up the aprons,
placing the smile on the shelf
relax

we look surprised at each other,
as if we have seen each other for the first time and
discovered something new

“You look tired today.”

 

Machinery

the sound in the locker room
is different in the evening
it feels like we have been locked up
that kind of elation in the air when
we put on our own clothes and
become human again

when we throw our uniforms in the laundry
on our way out of the kitchen I think
that which should make us human
has made us into machines

 

 

The black eye

She was the strongest of women; mother of two, waitress,
won everyone’s respect with her skills with the drunks in the bar.

She filled in the extra hours when others left the apron on the counter and
asked the manager to go to hell. Was there when people were hospitalized,
attended funerals, fled the authorities.

She was divorced and struggled with pick ups, exchanges, day shift, night shift,
overtime and restraining orders.

When she came to work with a black eye and the manager got to see
her battered face, he said that she should not bring her problems to work.

He could not have her working when she looked like that and if it happened again
she was not welcome back.

 

 

I am a human being

I am also human
I need food on the table
a job to go to
dignity
I am not invisible

I am also human
I will break if you send me to war
I will rot if you leave me in a trench
I am fragile goods

I am human
my legs ache after eleven hours between cashier and
kitchen
the headache screams after a whole day in a steep-hot kitchen

the human in me says that it is unreasonable
to earn money for someone else
I am not a machine

I am not invisible
I am the one who takes your money at the gas station
building the car you drive, the being that you send off to war
who rots away in your trenches

I am not invisible
I cook for you and your fine dining
clean your houses
take care of your parents
I am so close

I am fragile goods
it hurts when I fall from scaffolds
slip on the greasy floor
lift the old
my body has no spare parts
because I am not a machine
you can not buy a new one, because you can not buy me

the human in me says that you can not claim my surplus value
because nothing is more valuable than humanity
you can not call me to the office and exchange me for a
faster model
because I am not a machine

I am a human being
I am so close

 

 

Equals 

The greatest weariness
does not come from manual labour,
the bottle trays lifted up narrow aisles,
muscles screaming of the burden
during impossible balancing acts
with the dishes through the café

it is not the steam from the ovens
the dull knives or
the slippery floors that hurts the most

 the labour does not consist of
cooking the food or
serving the guests

 no, it is the manager’s words
after weeks of unpaid overtime

 the gazes
from the affluent
ladies

and countless smiles
that hide the fact
that there is little hope
that we will ever
meet as equals

A possible society 

I have carried a memory
of a future yet to come

a hope beyond
lobbyists and consensus

a force behind the losses
something between us
that is sparkling
like electricity

for where your hope has left
my strength
where my powers have run out
your voice

I have a memory
of a possible society

where far away is very close
and the movement carries us forward

it is early
we are yet too few
the shouts now just whispers
the rage only a vibration in your quiet voice

but I have carried a memory
of a possible society
a future yet to come

where no one labours for someone else
but everyone works for each other

 

 

Untitled

We have been lucky
the cities that are bombed are other countries’ cities
the houses that explode are other people’s housest
he people who die, are other sisters’ brothers
the roads full of craters are not called
Björkvägen
Svartågatan
Solstigen
the schools that are burning
does not burn with our children’s drawings
the hospitals without electricity
does not accommodate our friends’ screams
but the prime minister’s words about the export earnings
for our innocent country
vibrates in the blood
in the streets

 

 

“The Trade Union Vow

We do solemnly swear
That we will never
under any circumstances
work for lower wages
or under worse conditions
than we now promise one another.

We make this vow,
in the secure knowledge,
that if we all are true to our pledge,
the employer will be forced
to meet our demands!”

 

The promise

 

We gave each other a promise
we stood up next to each other
protected our demands
and each other

together together

where we were ten, we became strong as a hundred
where we were hundreds we became strong as two thousand

that was how solidarity worked
there were no rules for it but
when it grew we grew
uncontrollably

was is our the first time we finally understood the campaigns against it
it was fatal to them which did not stand on our side
had we been members before we called for others to understand
and we grew with it
uncontrollably

in times then we were pushed back
the floor became harder
the food more expensive
our bodies heavier to carry

when our leaders no longer remembered
the floor
the pain in the wrists
the weight of our bodies

when they broke the chain and betrayed us
anger took over
we hesitated and became weaker

in times when the crises hit
it was not meant that we would be pushed back
we had promised each other because we knew
that if we held the promise
work would be fair
the result of it
everyones
and
our bodies easy to carry

if we held the promise
the future was not a hope for days to come
security was not dependent on the business cycle
and
today not the fear of tomorrow

so we gave each other a promise
we stood up next to each other
protected our demands
and each other

together together

if we were two thousand, we became strong like twenty thousand
if we were twenty thousand, we became strong as four hundred thousand

we who were small was suddenly bigger than what previously frightened us
we who had bent our backs and lowered our gaze
stood up straight and raised our voice

we who had blamed each other
not seen past the shifts of our gods, language, the color of our skin
stood together together

and demanded so little
so much
the most reasonable thing of all:

“Democracy shall apply, also in the factories
in the kitchens and in the banks
we built the country the country is ours”

when they spread lies about us
we started newspapers
when they murdered our comrades
we occupied the factories
when they shot at us we got weapons

together together

when they sold our schools
made rich riches
tried to divide us
when their system went into a new crisis and
they tried to take our work away from us

We gave each other a promise
we stood up next to each other
protected our demands
and each other

together together

if we were four hundred thousand, we became strong as four million
where we were four million, we became strong as eight billion

that is how solidarity works
there are no rules for it but
when it grows
we grow
uncontrollably

together with bodies easy to carry