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Vad ska vi göra med varandra

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In english

Jenny Wrangborg is a cook and a poet. She lives in Stockholm and have for the last 11 years been working in kitchens all over 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.

Her latest collection “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.

Following poems are from Kitchen which have been translated by Freke Räihä. We are currently looking for a English publisher.

 

 

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