Saturday, May 03, 2014

Leaving the cottage

(poem still in progress)



The grass lies on the land - 
     that set of keys.

Dumb as a bunch of keys, the grass is.
    It’s you who know!

Do you know what you know?
   Take this clutch of grass

and potter back and forth,
  letting out your prisoners.


This blue morning is also over Syria;
    this sky is too high for

that kind of division.
   A dove clears its bowels as it

takes off into the air.
   So many have engraved

their messages on the blue stone:
    everyone is writing on the cover, and

yet the pages are blank.


This, that the grass unlocks
    when you twist it,

is thronging, like a street when it
    darkens with people. A forest has grown up.

Now it’s so dense with over-writing that,
   as I tell my daughter,

it’s becoming more difficult to walk.
   So now, the walk must begin.


Clearing out of the cottage, they showed
    me my wooden tractor,
with its shiny wooden nose and stone-hard
                                           rubber tyres.
Of course I don’t remember anything,
    but oh my clattering comrade. Have we sat apart
for half a century, and endured the
    silence? Morfar bought you
for me, Snub-nose, that forgotten spring.
   It wobbles, the rear axle needs tightening.


Purity is so brittle, it is soon in
                              half a dozen splinters,
and then you cut yourself. Karin, you know this.
It is an eternal radiance
                         that is rimmed by filth,
a bridal crown hacked from a bleeding wood.
Oh, leave purity behind you! It isn’t too late
                       for your vows to be emptied
and for your honour to be thrown aside.
    Come! It is an eternal teardrop.


The day of sun developed; the wooden church
the faint sighs of cloud
                           in a clear blue sky,
the chorus of trees waiting to begin
                           the concert.
Where does the sea find its home?
Where does the beetle in the waste pit that I fill up now with
the sandy soil beneath the young trees, where does it find
                                       its home?
Where do the racing insects of a day
return, but to now and its noise,
like the squeaking of a railway carriage?


They’re taking down my tent, because rain is
but back in England it’s a heatwave,
       50 in Dubai, while in Cambodia
the rainy season begins with thunder
                                  and floods.
The skin of the planet prickles with
and for now it’s a matter of the right taxis,
                                 the right hotels.
Time prickles with weather. The fir
                              tree in Sjögren’s
stands with head bowed, digesting
    its weather food. Time and its
resemble the noticeboard in a faded

This last summer, in 2013,
   I'm in the tent,
because Annika's in the outhouse.
And Miranda comes two days before we go.

The first day, Pelle comes and inspects the tent.
It's an honour; he's so wild now.

Two years ago, he was still a kitten,
playing fiercely with the mats in the cottage,
    but now we hardly see him.

Still the same fierce beauty. A small cat,
grey as a ghost, except for a white ring on his tail.

He belongs to Anny. We're on the edge
of his large, vague and definite territory.

He hunts continually. He's a part of the land
  and will think nothing of our absence.


“What car is like a chair?” we asked each other
    dropping with sleep on the M23. There was
                               a crater in the glade,
    the sunset shone into the tree-trunks.
This was by the cemetery.  Dad and I crossed
                                              the road
    to stand at the edge of that longer
                             clubmoss forest
             that never ceases
                    to be worked on.
        Already there’s a new view of it.


26th July, we walked the terraces of
         Radstock in veils of silver rain
and came on to IKEA later, our clothes still damp,
    and nursed the hot white mugs with the
                                            maroon tags
of the “London Tea Company”. The soft
                        rain drew itself up
and fell hard in Clandown by the
but beneath the cypresses, were dry
      coarse semi-circles.
The ants, who build dust under the buried stones,
                                   come forth blinking
into the IKEA restaurant, where is
                 the huge photo of Kungsholmen
and the islands beyond, the land where
                        they seem to knit together.


Every evening at sunset or close to
the painted skies of August
                      display for our walk,
    after another day of computing,
but ever more restless, these
                       twilight butterflies
who mark the sun’s gaze as it begins
       to slide away from northern lands.
The summer, still there, begins to detach
     itself, the night horizon is clouded.
Rains nourish the swelling berries and the
                                  shining ceps.
So much I can remember of Augusts, and
        one chanterelle September.
It isn’t time that hurries by, but me.

[read at Swindon Nov 2014]


The grey of dawn,
    broader bands
segregate the lonely
    summer stuga
the empty home
    the bolt, again and again
the fabric sealing night;
    frames of a disintegrating
film, the tear-filled
    pitch of that roof.
      In that film, a hosepipe
directed against a wall to fake rain.
The blue stripe of bank holiday
blue, again and again, and that place
              washing off, like a suntan.


Maria’s gold toenails
    slate Bench hoodie
the ceaselessly trembling
    tassels of her arabic scarf
the black scalloped shadows
    of rippled white sand
Maria’s gigantic hand muscles
   from working the clenchers
   all the way round by the river
the sandals getting scuffed
        gold toenails
the miles and the sun
    brand-name forgotten
left behind in that shop
                      in Taunton
and a large tea
    and candy crush maria
walk on gold


This boy I’ve never met will turn the strange key.
    Nobody says goodbye. Johan,
Kjell’s boy, will keep it alive –
Now  that I’m turning my back,
    feeling with my foot for the rung,
my whole world turns: the
    birch and you and you and you. The whole
So I went up. With the wasps’ nest.
We’re going to lock ourselves in.
I’m looking back out of the loft,
You’re down there, but you’re all up here.

The skis, your skis Mum,
    sawn-off child ones,
the sticks with
    leather hand loops
and stiff leather
    tilted rings,
along with the
birch-bark plaited
and an army camp-bed,
army hat Dad brought home from Malaria.
Take them,
bring them down the
take photographs of
us. Explain how to
turn the key once more.
Lay them out on the
lawn, your treasures,
to pack in the car
    and take south, where
a dealer seemed to be interested,
or put them on eBay. 


In steady rain, the sodden sedge, the pine splashing heavy cone-water
tangled reed and alder black. The skies emptying,
      the mossy stream, granite boulders, swollen – The light low, skyline shivering
bog-cotton bending, the brown mother and calf, step splay-footed
deep into forest marshes, the clouds pissing light from the day
and the angry wind, and the ants on their break in the misty needlestacks.

[read at Swindon Nov 2014]


Maybe I’ll join a botanical society
    and do good work with like-minded people.
Then I won’t write poems any more.
    I won’t bother with that difficult
                   unwelcome business where
       you make something and it just proves
                                   to everyone
that we’re not like-minded at all.
    Poetry is the constant reminder
that without it we could not even
                     imagine each other.

[read at Swindon Nov 2014]


What did the summer contain?
    It wasn’t only the pine-scent, wasn’t only
the meadowsides flowing like a bright flag.

    At the river you picked up a handful of
not only red river-gravel but all
    those one-syllable words: air, and love...

(What dumb signposts they are! We who are tired
    of kicking up and down the same old road –
well, we have left some dents on them.)

    But, what was it?

Where the grass rippled up a bank,
    where we danced a mazurka and the
                         sun became a golden berry –
what worm of no syllables
    lay wreathed and smiling in its gut?

[read at Swindon Feb 2015]


I’ll number every hour of summers past
and every cast I’ll praise that never took a fish –
The others were praised enough, as we sat round the table
and spat out the pike’s forked bones
                                        and took more potatoes.

I liked to gut and behead, to strip
      out the swim-bladder with a knife-point
and to grub off the shekels of her flanks
      in a mound, to salt and clean,
and to bury all that work in the ground.

But I never liked the convulsive leaps,
    the panicking of her tail,
the fury of the priest by the silent lake.

[read at Swindon Feb 2015]


Evening along Mar Azul, biking in October.
Look at these blocks spotted with a few
                       stray lights, one-off constellation.
Does anyone know any more who’s home?
    We can walk and message, stay in touch
                                                24 hours
or arrange that wedding while hiking in
                                            the Picos.
Eventually a great blackout comes. Eventually
    we move through the forests of this
                          great secret house,
felling them as quick as they can grow
    because if there is no engraving there is certainly
                                                                 no staying
in timberless Mesopotamia.


The arts of imaging – descriptive words,
    photos and musical scenes,
I would need them all, to begin to reveal
    this morning in October sand,
so how can I think you will take a
                                      single step
into the place I want to share with you
-- one single step, to the smell of warmth
and a summer insect? A place I can’t
                           even go myself?
Go to the cities and the halls, search
               a hundred thousand results –
you’ve excelled, to even meet this poem, to
    be so distracted as to wander this far
away from your own life. It’s all going up.
    Doesn’t your own life need your attention?
                          You’ll do better to raise your head.


What’s the use of translating,
    to say e.g. a “Scotch Argus” fluttered
beside e.g. a “Scots Pine”? Not very Jämtländsk, that!
I’m trying to keep a foreignness around my memories.
    I’m trying to be sure you’ll never penetrate.

Only that one rock, only that certain shape
    and the cast of its drift in the sea of moss.
Only the voice of my grandmother, twenty years      
Only that rock with the line of ants and the
                                          wild strawberries ---
and a scraping on one flat face, feel it?
A shallow mysterious track
    zigzagging and then ending in a loop.


You can’t understand. There’s a
                 peaceable remark in the
                                    boreal forest,
and the remark is space all around –
           -- all round me – kind of big country.
Climbing an elk-shooting platform,
          well, that’s another thing.
The hunters splashed the “fell-storm
      -hat” with their pissing, it nodded.
The forest is a slot machine,
      maximum payout £70.
The big green leaves splashed by
                         the astonishing waterfall,
and it was truly raining then, up towards the fells
a few years ago. We got waffles
                        later in the shop,
and I was so happy being with Mum and Dad
    that I forgot the remark, until now.
“Exploring Nature’s playground” says the
                       Peter Storm t-shirt.
Yes Peter you had that about right. There
          are several isotopes,
a thousand maybe – most are so
    long, we only know them by their
The mottle clouds of today are desperate!


I went once in the snow. From the moment
                                you breathed it you breathed
the prolonged continuity of that subzero.
It was the beginning of April, the birch-forests
    all black sweeps, the zigzag frozen
river.  And the pylons looked like wheelchairs
                                      outside a hospital.


    Something like the forest sea
The beautiful simplicity of their
whose rounded, knobbly thoughts
    are entirely of them, of the life
that excludes me. The shape of a head
    is a history, as plastic as an infant's
to the simple, subcutaneous, unanalysable
patterns of the nation, the thing that
    shapes us into stereotype. The child
      sleeping on the train, gawky-limbed,
already has the national expression,
    though Mum is Chinese. Is it the
Swedish words that shape the face?
    Perhaps – not how you pronounce them
but what you have to say, who you
             have to be,
the way anyone can live here, and
            the skiing, they,
wild strawberries and
    the factories by the lake, totalities,
                                       toilet paper...

[Read at Swindon, Jan 16, 2017]


[   W O O D
M A G I C  ]

The whole wailing body of the nyckelharpa
is spruce that is still being sawn at.
Sun glitters on the river of Joel Böhlén
in the music, but the shade of the woods
drips in the chilly summer evening,
but the music spools without comment
in the sawing hands of the old men,
but the mushrooms bloom on the needle earth.


Shell    Gazprom    Murmansk   Putin   Sarin


Attachment loyalty sentiment frozen
nostalgia return no return emptiness
guilt and postured guilt, regret and
Emptiness of a teeming forest, deeper
                                             in –
if I was writing this in the forest!
Fake, flounder, blankness, indifference,
dead grass, bond and bonding
    with the last empty never-satisfied
wave of the evening close in
    a wood where you’ve never been,
though you’re still there, terrified of
it, night closes, a chocolatey
      night from the wrong climate
and you fidget on the happy fringe of
      a real life, histrionic performance
hide everything from the moss,
    the fringeing pines and dark
strawy waving of defiance flags.


Daylight sees in all the gaps.
    The walls and the door are all
                 thin deal, a box of light;
I could pilot it up into the midnight
       I feel I could hover
high over the woods, high over the houses,
    the whole hydroelectric valley


Moving out again. Last bags in
                                 the falling rain,
photos at the foot of the stairs,
     then posting the key.
Hyacinth. Shrug past the shadow
     of the forgotten cypress
to the van, with a high heart.
Semichorus of hyenas!
We run we walk we run
We’re out of here.


It’s here you
      wash bleach and
with tap and soap and mop;
you scrub, rub and dab
    swab and drub
       the boards into
ship shelves into shape
where river weir and water
          gush and dash.


When I broke the mirror,
                    its gold frame
lay in the winter trees
          showing its legs.
But you know, you know –
    ain’t that how it is?

I sat with Granny,
    overhearing the life outside.
The wind was already blowing,
    most of the seats were taken.
A kind of pearlescent roar
             clouded the horizon.

I saw in the fair distance
   some battle of the heavens
cumulus congestus
   Those men, Granny said,
and we went to church.


    “Why didn’t you say?”
I looked over the quarter,
    and I saw them lying down.
My grandmother lay down with the
     cello in her arms.
She was among the first –
    a dog moaned softly and lay down in its
a child stopped in her tracks.
The crowd began to sag in the middle
    and everyone who stopped
            pausing to snuff the sweet air
    they all plunged, all of the now,
and were strewn like bottles across the
    restless in the wind. Just empty bottles.
                I sat on a bench and brooded.
                                   Inside me
the pines stirred,
    a light moved across my pillow –
cool on my forehead, my mother’s hand.
I opened my eyes
    and I asked again:
              “Why did you hide?
Why couldn’t you say?
Was it wrong?”


The gang of children shriek down the
     hot slope, oblivious to tree-roots,
socializing, learning to be socialized,
    to stand up, know, and share.

Nature is only a background for the other’s
                   sticky hand, the punch-up,
the whisper.

                   But suppose a child never
    did learn to be socialized.

Suppose that nature became the foreground.


Nothing to see,
    why should I ever learn?
Nothing to say,
    why should I ever listen?
Nothing to show,
    to impose yourself
on where my life grows
    so why would I go
out on the roads, to
    no music, no downloads?

The leaves lie on the land.

Which of us would buy
     the bloody double album


Suddenly one person
    sprints on ahead
with a puff of outrage –
    flares for a moment
and is resubmerged
    in the throng.

After long search
    for the seven wonders
I came to a rainsoaked valley
    of Karrimor shoes –
a jumble of discounted
    plum/slate 8.5
Maybe you need another
No, I don’t need any size!
A lift less ordinary --
           no, not that either.
I will drown in the
    rainsoaked trench
I’ll rub my face
    on the cement alley
I’ll be the Everly Brothers
    under wet leaves
where the fungus lightning
flashes in the black
    roots of Niflheim
where the bootlace
holds all breath
         and song
in its poisoned


I’ve never been to Sweden.
We galumphed in
     wellingtons across the
   bog, wellingtons wobbling
        on the foot,
           spacious Tretorn
           wellingtons, kaviar on
               limpa, kaffe under the


All I can say in
   writing is a filtered version
of what I truly feel.
And this, I don’t even know it,
   but I have to find it out.
-- and always, the writing
    tries to say more
but it is clogged
         though for all I know
it’s less clogged than me
     but I don’t think so.
A foulness of breath
    comes from me
The eye can’t lie
and even the mind can’t lie.
It’s the mouth that lies.
Honesty, the life of
starts with words.


You now, with cherry
       tomatoes lettuce cucumber.
Every forkful entirely you,
every scrape of the plate.
    Who are you? Yes,
        that’s still a mystery.
There’ll never be another
                such as you.
You are a unique
     creation of your own soul.
One flower continually fading,

Projection of a rippling bud,
     a rose in the parchment,
     tinfoil roller behind electric bulbs,
One warm opponent.

How does it all flow back into the vanity case,
those silks?

Your feral look, your home village?
What heavy metal
     in your bones is never renewed?

[Read at Swindon, Jan 16th 2017]


I'm writing this in the Guildhall Library
and here in the midst of it, instantly
springs up a face of black degraded with age and vegetation.
And I go inside the black cliff of my subject,
my hidden life.
But not with ease, and not by habit.
It is as unfamiliar as a new dream.

Those times we meet up and it all goes wrong
and we are repelled, and are enemies stuck together
against each other for the length of a whole day out,
the weary length of beating against each other,
impossible to understand or be understood,
then in that despairing blankness I glimpse
the terrible strange extent of your soul
and I see too
via your despairing perceptions
the crazy strange offence
of my own soul,
familiar yet unfamiliar too.

And I see it's a coal-black prison
whose cells are cluttered with projects
that explain away its own fears and longings.
These obstacles, these wretched artworks,
incomplete as they are,
have settled themselves into the walls and floors,
and when I wished to tidy up
the warders dissuaded me. They said Brother,
the prisoner does this.
A broom is no good.
It's a stump-grinder you're wanting.
It's a colonoscopy plus.


Titta Grå is the Iago
   in a folk-tale from Närke.

She's so wicked that
   even the Devil is appalled.

But why didn't the pair,
   the loving couple of 36 years,

why didn't they compare notes?
Why didn't they question

  her poisonous words
before they destroyed each other?

What the tale doesn't say
   about Titta Grå

is: she lives within us.


But what I am quite good at, first thing,
is talking to servants.

At the cottage my parents were my servants.
I could groan to them about waking up
and gratify them with sundry responses,
nods or shakes of the head,
to questions of crispbread, tea etc.
Leave the filmjölk out, I'm using it.

Or later I'd find
something to tell them
out of my book
or the back of the Havre Fras.

I have agonized so long
about how I'm missing the cottage.


A blue flashbulb ahead and
the thunder explodes in the sky.

   All round the hissing of rain
sweeps over the tree-tops and deluge

   steadily splashes the roundabouts of west Swindon.
fork lightning splitting the sky;

in a conservatory,
   chick in an eggshell,

cracking zigzag. Smell the electricity,
    this is almost real! And because it is almost real,
I'm Havisham thinking of the Fjällstation in '98;
   thinking of the scribbled windows of '93...
and my surroundings die again:

   the rain dribbling on,

feebler claps, an old pony
  and the new fresh earth.


A Thai meal
  at the pavilion.
Walking home on the
"new road", so on the
cut we can look for
No dreams any more
But there are no last
years any more.
Look at the vast
slopes across the river.
We didn't go there often,
& the last time we did,
it was to see what
Kjell had told us,
the view of our cottage
mysteriously alone
the rest of
the village converted
back into forest.
Thus things simplify,
as when the exhausted Walter Scott
stopped composing The
Siege of Malta and
merely wrote it.


open. kaffepannan. The door scrolls
parish register, dass. Toyota
sunbeam. Shut.

&ire vatten                         ()   87      född
step in the roads of amniosis,
                                    frill of birchenträumer



Once in a year of
plenty and
we found two
fruits by
the path in the
In other years only
leaves Thus was it


Imagine you
crumple the newspaper
into a faggot and light
one end. The cones and
shavings loosely
loaded, the cavity
must have airflow
The warm smoke
drawn to the rear
hatch, and you hope
that then a scrap of wind will catch it
and suck it all up the chimney.
You hope but you never know.
You hope, with reasonable certainty,
that the warm smoke
straightens and is
drawn straight up,
like stair-rods pinging,
drawn up by a mangle.
the incineration of sinners,
savoury to a householder.


Elimination state

And the mist darkened over the mountains
that separate land from land.

On the terraces, where private ownership
shatters into a checkerboard.

But out in the flatlands,
the emperors and a
repressive religion.

Rank pine plantations
in millions of hectares.

And cousins who once
spoke in the same valley dialect

now lived under different regimes
and fought as their medias
thought they should.

You know all this. But do the mountains
even exist here in the yellow stars
where Max is plowing & the lacy plants
frond the surface of a pool
and they kiss not greedily but wetly, sexual people,
clothes wrinkling on the rock,
not knowing  yet where this is going.


The organs are packed into a body
the same way that rock is packed into a stone.

The adrenals control the liver's
interactions with the thyroid;
The amygdalae shriek at the adrenals from a peppered cliff

The fowl's hot body as it beaked the man away
though its wings and legs were broken
by a narrowboat's propeller.

The sea wrinkles, breathing in and out.
then the clouded sun dips and elevates the country into its night.

It proves a blustery, spitting night
collected in passionate runnels,
seizing the junctions of the city.

But it's simple as a stone is:
the body's function, to love and to seek for love.


Birch. Is it many, or one?

But whether it's one or many,
it's part of a greater many.

A greater birch-park.

Communes with her lovers in spring;
with her children in autumn.

See the leaves light; the bark still lighter;
mirrors of other birches.

But what is single then?


One season the vole population exploded.

Owls fed their broods on voles.

The parents attacked us, they were strike-owls.

We sat in the kitchen at dusk and the windows darkened
when owls flew noiselessly
                  through the garden, feeding.


Som ni vill har det.

By the dead falls is a summer theatre.

Hard to define the seriousness of this audience,
but it isn't academic, it comes from somewhere else.

The meaning comes from the gnat-chorusses in the vast space of the open valley.

We say, in fact, that we're having it. In this season we're simply shepherds,
and no-one needs to think of going back.

We're Shakespeare's shepherds, a little leisured and a little educated.
Everyone is welcome.

But the stolidity is always there.


A man is carving himself into a wooden scene
while the snow falls outside.

In the carving it's summer.
The man stands up with his tools,

His wife and daughter are making peppercakes;
he converts them into flying birds

on the heavenly up-swell of cinnamon and cloves.


Warm in the shade of garden trees.

How lucky we are!

We walk down the road
to the restaurant by the Thai pavilion.

We can go that far.
I buzz around with the camera.

Things are not as they were,
yet they remain good.

But for you Mum
the strain of that goodness
has grown with the years.
Even for you Dad,
though you don't admit it.

I'm saying all this in hindsight -
at the time I found ways of not hearing.

Now that it's "those" and not "these"...
From those times and those woods
a different animal emerges.


Not exactly in the wilds,
but the hire-car parked
on the forest track,
with prästkrage up to its bumpers,
would do as well.

We Thermos'd overlooking a
glistening stream on the way up.
Now we parked in the same spot.
The sun had shifted to a red gold.

The trip to Strömsund was the
final slender outline
of a senescent summer tree.

Almost like the sapling.


But it wouldn't have been the same,
  with your spirit out of it.

Even now you preserved it, even though
 for years you hadn't been happy here.

As soon as you got there
 you started smoking again,  out on the bron in the midsummer air.

Stress? Boredom?

Was it only with me you  picked currants
under the trees,
moving in the swish of grasses,
troubling the elk-hounds in their cage?

Making your garden where hardly anything could grow

Counting the bellfowers

But even now you preserved

When we converged, that last summer,
you wouldn't let us plunder the kitchen sofa

and the linen cupboard. That was
the nearest I came to understanding your religion.

Something had to be handed on;
some sort of household shrine.

Your Mum seemed very present then. Something passed down from the original owner, whose name I never learnt. Why? Because it unified our forty summers. Because it healed them. We couldn't.


blunt love of bed


The forests dance.

On a tree-lined ridge,
the pines barely clothing the rock,
where pines abut the vertical crag,
the forests dance
as we watch from a moving car,
our oil supplying the rhythm.

But go in and there's stillness,
and the fear of something not moving, yet.



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