No 26 - 2005
To step forward into summer, you have to step back into winter. In the England you left were crocuses on the verge of decadence, broken open fat and purple, as decorated Easter eggs should but don’t.
Oslo. Here is the road sweeping up and down from the focal point of the royal palace; here, chunks of ice swept like a litter of leaves around trees’ babes, ice that will not melt on the sunny kerbs, unpacked like styrofoam from the sides of boxes; and here, blankets on chairs in pavement cafés, for draping this city of balcony-builders, wrought iron optimists always about to emerge from the dark of the year.
The crocuses in Oslo have emerged, but barely, shavings of pale purple scraped into spirals, lying at ankle height. For you they are a retrospective of the season that England, hot and moist, has just cast off.
Easter. Let us glory in the dragon’s egg that sits in the window of Pascal’s, a maze for the eye that slithers into green (unnatural spring!). Walking past one of the top five pâtisseries worldwide as rated by the French, yes it’s located in Oslo, let us glory in the egg of metamorphic rock, limestone pressed to crack its cells becoming marble. So on the way to the free museum of Viking ship discoveries, let us glory in the egg that resides like a volcano, a shape of holding-in resplendent in the company of the one intact destroyer: fire.
You will feel the heat, when you travel south to England. The sun, English-silvered, nonetheless will beat into your clothing. Hoodie and cardie, fleece and wool, will not have stopped searching out the chill on your back-to-back street. Forget them. You’ll promenade, looking well hard, outstripping the normal progress of seasons. This trip sets on an accelerated summer. How could you bear yourself enough,
The average height of things is tall.
I had a little nut-tree and nothing would it bear But a silver nut-meg and a golden pear....
Night in Nils-Juels-Gata: eight p.m. is late at night, in baby time.
There are baby citizens visible throughout Oslo, as in much of the rest of ‘western’ civilisation there are babies behind closed doors. Count them: the parking places for prams in the National Gallery; the baby café with play mats and tables, cappuccinos and fruit purée; posters galore for the Pirate School, a useful occupation for the young during the parents’ working day.
And in the park, the park with the paths with variable snow (hand-deep, thigh-deep, skimming the sole); in that park where branches are pushed aside to reveal an old man in a aleeveless vest speeding across a frozen lake; that park, the one with the total winter vista such that the thought of humanity finds itself almost lost two turns from a bench - what they call a park is a piece of hill ringed off, solitary almost, but among the pines occasional memorials of previous settlements, signs posting up the exact number of their long-perished cows, sheep, pigs - there you witnessed the visitation.
Two skiers in red, girl companions - with - what was that, scudding down the snow behind them? Riding the snow like boats riding the clouds, toddlers' sleds attached to the skis, visors tinted against spring glare. In each sled a toddler, burbling fast in the mother’s wake, trailing mittens in degree-zero surf.
Yarn.... yarn.... yarn. Yarn.
Another set of glasses cases.
Here are the finds from the Viking ships. They present a face like a lump of clay. These treasures like fossilized golf balls were endlessly useful: they were yarn. The tight and careful winding of long ago is barely discernible but as something hoarded, and now hoarded again: good stuff, yarn, you cannot ever have too much of it.
Now this - what is it? No. Who - when - where - how?
PEACOCK FEATHERS: a mucky cube.
See the cinematic viking, grabbing a handful from a whole roast bird served (feathers stuck back in for presentation purposes) at an imperial feast in Miklagardr - Constantinople?
See the bawling brute in a foreign market, jerking a live bird (dull with fright and lack of grain) at the end of a string, pleased and guttural since he has struck a bargain for something so valuable, so rare.
See the trader-and-raider, sorry for bloodshed, offering a fistful of silver for a bunch of feathers already dishevelled and several rivers distant from their bird. He would have been willing to pay more than that; he does not know why, but he must have them. The look of the thing makes him glad and shy. He marvels. Dreams took shelter from the storms of steel, dreams; encamped themselves behind his idealising killer eyes. Like the modern soldier who has survived, not intact, but intense, to raise doves or mow the lawn, your Viking would defend with every cruelty this crumb, this corner, this pocket bouquet of compacted plumes, for they are long away and nevermore, they are beyond the bounds, pure, happiness.
Under the ashen museum lighting you squint through the glass. You read the label. Peacock feathers. A green glisten washes over the chewed plastecine cube.
Can you anticipate a surprise? There will be lilies when you get back to England. They cup colour in a way that oppresses, like wine glasses designed to be a little too big - hold that drop too much -intoxicate more, and more quickly.
Blood is seeping around the bruised bone of your friend’s mending wrist that broke his fall when he was skiing.
This is meantime. This is holiday. The hospital was good.
The King of Spain’s daugh-ter came to visit me
Washed-out and feral in daylight hours, she poises herself at the brink of night. The young mother’s voice bubbles up behind the closed door, song after song, source of lullabies. It is like being the guest of a holy well covered over from tourists: you feel purified, and a little ashamed. You draw the door shut upon such active love, and sit with your work, lacking speech.
Streetlit on the walls of your temporary room are images stuck there by your Oslo friends: trolls and scissors; cross-hatched women in folkloristic linen; Mount Fuji; a pyramid wave; a great rectangle that is the political map of the world as it must have been quite recently.
The words on the page no longer stand for meanings. It is an ink museum, a resistant sculpture park, a thicket of trees where the eye gets lost holding on to wrought iron fences. Each railing is barbed with a spear point. A vision of authority, the words stand out, separate, deadly, fine, archaic.
But the sounds, the sights and sounds, there must be an unbroken connection?
Rounds and stops glisten quietly up. Your tongue flattens into a bowl. Your tongue hauls itself up against your teeth. Air forces an escape, heat and moisture whooshing over your palate. Your lips are at a loss.
The sounds are individual. This makes no sense at all.
For how long have you been hissing and swaying gently, hypnotised in the park of wild letters? Your mouth transforms into plums, trapezes, safety razors, trying to hang a curtain of flesh between your breath and the magician’s-mirror printed page.
It is springtime in Oslo. You have forgotten how to read. Go home.
- 10th Muse
- Angel Exhaust
- Blithe Spirit
- Brando's hat
- Brittle Star
- Cannon's Mouth, The
- Coffee House, The
- Dream Catcher
- Floating Bear, The
- French Literary Review, The
- Frogmore Papers, The
- Global Tapestry
- Grosseteste Review
- Homeless Diamonds
- Interpreter's House, The
- Journal, The
- Lamport Court
- London Magazine, The
- Modern Poetry in Translation
- Monkey Kettle
- Neon Highway
- New Welsh Review
- North, The
- Obsessed with pipework
- Oxford Poetry
- Painted, spoken
- Paper, The
- Pen Pusher Magazine
- Poetry Cornwall
- Poetry London
- Poetry London (1951)
- Poetry Nation
- Poetry Review, The
- Poetry Salzburg Review
- Poetry Scotland
- Poetry Wales
- Private Tutor
- Purple Patch
- Rain Dog
- Reach Poetry
- Review, The
- Rialto, The
- Second Aeon
- Seventh Quarry, The
- Smiths Knoll
- Strange Faeces
- Tabla Book of New Verse, The
- Tolling Elves
- Ugly Tree, The
- Wolf, The
- Yellow Crane, The