Friday, March 18, 2016

F O T O, poems 31 - 40

Abisko: view of Torneträsk

31.   (Me sitting in long grass by the fjord)

It was incredible that grass should grow
and pine-trees drop fat needles on the path,

oyster-catcher run rings around us squawking,
and evening boats bob calmly, this far north.

32.   (Fjord)

Starved beauty of borderland, beach, road,
caravan lots, sat still on the rough, cool grass

when evening broods, and closes like an eye.
In a snap making the ending endless.  

33.   (View of mountains)

Each morning I live in the face of untravelled lands
but I can’t come now. Knee-deep in bilberries and fern-fronds

high up above the highway and the bay, I’m busy but
each night I sleep in the grip of untravelled lands.

34.  (Rallarrosen “the navvy’s rose”)

No trace now of the anxious, sprawling camps,
no clanking barrows, no chinking hammer, no men.

Empty land, but alive. The unsweet roses
threw a blast of silent plumes after the train.

35.  (Birch woods Riksgränsen)

We called through the open door. Yes, it was a café,
and yes, she could do us coffee, though nothing to eat.

She balanced the tray slowly across the granite ground
to the only table. And after all it had a few cakes on it. 

36.   (Abisko turiststation)

The deerherds pitched on the high pass. At midnight
smoke whispered from their huts, on the postcard.

In the “Playstation” we showered and queued for dinner. 
Mum said: “kåtor” and Dad said: “goahte”.

37.   (The ground with Saxifraga aizoides)

We dashed our bikes on the ground,
the wheels still spinning. The day had begun.

Red, yellow, orange glowed the streamlets.
Through space flew my greedily sucking lungs.

38.   (Slate rockface with orange lichen)

The boreal zone, which is dominated by conifers;
and the arctic zone, which is dominated by lichen.

This is the arctic. What you see doesn’t really exist,
unless it’s portable — which this isn’t.

39.   (The waterfall)

Water plunges all together
and comes up sparkling

and unharmed. It’s idiotic but
no wonder it’s laughing.

40.  (Laura above the waterfall, kicking feet in the air)

In the airy wink of your calves
lives the pedalling of small, soapy feet.

Your own, and your children’s. “Maybe soon
I’ll be a grandmother. Oh, I can’t wait!”


Back-story. Poems 31-32 are at Skibotn (Norway), as night (but not darkness) falls. Next morning (33) our road-trip turned south, crossing back into Sweden at Riksgränsen, where the road runs alongside the railway that was built to export Swedish steel to the west via the Norwegian port of Narvik (34, 35). Poems 36-40 take place at Abisko where we stayed two nights. Abisko Turiststation, beside lake Torneträsk in the far north of Sweden, is located in the notable rain-shadow cast by the Kebnekajse massif; we had (mostly) brilliant weather, while the rest of Norrland lay under incessant rain. 

Poem 36, last line. These are the Swedish and Same words, respectively, for the tepee-like huts used as temporary habitations by travelling Same. 

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