Thursday, February 18, 2016

F O T O, poems 1 - 10

View of Indalsälven

[Image source:]

1. (Indalsälven after five years)

Bare rock, and the winter, made this.
Absence made this, too.

I still go on calling it homeland.
Yes, sometimes I do.

2. (Summer cottage)

Sommarstugan glimmers, already solid with life. Once I hoped:
min mormor, too, might somewhere resist the winters

to greet us with trays of flowers as before...
hot from more gainful lands; shy, car-worn visitors.

3. (By Faxälven)

One morning years ago. Near the caravan Kalle
HOW! he would pounce and hoop and pounce

in the squeaking roadside grasses, here flies Kalle  
HOW! he would pin that mouse!

4. (A lake on the way north)

Finger on map: Ångermanälven leads, here, into Lappland.
V Ä S T E R B O T T E N S L Ä N. Trees, and a jagged gap

in the trees, and then more trees pass over the car and file away.
I woke up, and stared at the map. With what attention you sleep!

5. (Coffee-break)

And the car broke open with fever
to tumble us out and swim with the mosquitoes

in the air, in the world. Leaping clumps of heather.
To describe it: unfinished, the border where change grows.  

6. (The lay-by)

While we sauntered here
the trees never pondered us.

And what can I hear from needles and sap:
their no joy, no loneliness?

7.  (Laura wearing a logger’s cap)

A hat waits to become a hat.
It waits on the shelf

above the coat-hooks. It changes you
into someone else.

8.  (By the stream’s edge)

This grandfather rock. Dumbly, it takes it:
ice, torrent, ice, etc. Slowly, it wears into a hull.

I’m dipping my feet, I’m making a party.
Every bird and leaf flutters: nothing sits still. 

9.  (Laura holding an apple)

Hundred forests ¾ more than that, one forest;
behind each chord of spruce-horizons

are deeper, quieter chords... a pinebranch opens
on reedy, dancing water.  Not one green apple ripens.

10.  (Crossing the arctic circle)

I won’t often stretch to this. It is a real frontier:
northward, a sunny nail rides round midsummer night.

But a good country, also, lies an inch above my head.
There I go straight and handsome; I never read or write.


F O T O is a poem of 100 poemlets that I wrote about 15 years ago. Each of the poemlets corresponded to a holiday snap. The backstory in Poems 1 - 10  is that I and my friend Laura meet up with my mum and dad at the family cottage in the Indal valley, and the next day we all set off on a road trip to the far north of Sweden.

The statement at the end of Poem 9 is, somewhat to my own surprise, accurate. Neither the crab-apple Malus sylvestris nor the domestic apple Malus x domestica grow further north than central Sweden.

The nail in Poem 10 was, I believe, an unconscious memory of R.P. Lister's A Journey in Lapland, p. 124.

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