About this poet

Born in Sweden on February 5, 1939, 30 kilometers north of the arctic circle, Siv Cedering immigrated to San Francisco at the age of fourteen and became an American citizen five years later.

She is the author of eighteen books of poetry and fiction, most recently Vixen (2007, Pushcart Press), and Letters from an Observatory: New and Selected Poems, 1973-1998 (1998). She has written for both adults and children, in both English and Swedish, and is also a prolific translator, composer, and visual artist.

Her paintings have appeared in a number of one-woman shows; and she has created poetry sculptures, large outdoor installations that include a poem or a poetic fragment. In her collection Cup of Cold Water (1973), Cedering paired her poems with her photographs. She also has illustrated several of her books, including The Blue Horse and Other Night Poems (1978), Polis, polis, potatisgris (1985), and Grisen far till Paris (1987).

Usually written in the first person, Cedering's poems often deal with the erotic and the sensuous realm. In her recent work, she has mixed elements of science and myth. Published in many anthologies and journals, her poems have appeared in Partisan Review, The New Republic, and The Paris Review.

Her many grants and awards include the William Marion Reedy Award from the Poetry Society of America, a Pushcart Prize, and an Emily Dickinson Award. She died in her home in Amagansett, New York, on November 17, 2007.

Hands

Siv Cedering, 1939 - 2007

I

When I fall asleep 
my hands leave me.

They pick up pens 
and draw creatures 
with five feathers 
on each wing.

The creatures multiply.
They say: "We are large 
like your father's 
hands."

They say: "We have 
your mother's 
knuckles."

I speak to them:
"If you are hands, 
why don't you 
touch?"

And the wings beat 
the air, clapping. 
They fly

high above elbows 
and wrists. 
They open windows 
and leave

rooms.
They perch in treetops 
and hide under bushes 
biting

their nails. "Hands," 
I call them. 
But it is fall

and all creatures 
with wings 
prepare to fly 
South.

 
II

When I sleep 
the shadows of my hands 
come to me.

They are softer than feathers 
and warm as creatures 
who have been close 
to the sun.

They say: "We are the giver," 
and tell of oranges 
growing on trees.

They say: "We are the vessel," 
and tell of journeys 
through water.

They say: "We are the cup."

And I stir in my sleep. 
Hands pull triggers 
and cut 
trees. But

the shadows of my hands 
tuck their heads 
under wings 
waiting
for morning,

when I will wake
braiding

three strands of hair
into one.

From Cup of Cup Water by Siv Cedering, © 1973. Reprinted with permission of Siv Cedering. All rights reserved.

From Cup of Cup Water by Siv Cedering, © 1973. Reprinted with permission of Siv Cedering. All rights reserved.

Siv Cedering

Siv Cedering

Born in Sweden in 1939, 30 kilometers north of the arctic circle,