THE STOCKHOLM SEQUENCE

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Written between 1pm Monday 19th December and 7pm Tuesday 20th December 2016

In the changing hours between London and Sweden

 

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ONE:   AT AN AIRPORT

 

While early on, it was breasts and backsides

(And  of course always faces), these days,

Seeing women I direct my gaze to left hands.

 

I am looking out for the ring, while hoping of course

For its absence.  As if, phantom wrapped

Round the finger true happiness could be won.

 

At this age, chance declines, fattening

Close beside you. Faded beauty fleshed over

Is the tiring song that’s still sung.

 

And  yet, the heart, wearing thin, still finds 

Thick clothes for fresh mornings. Warming itself

Through short hours before love’s last reprieve

 

Has begun.

 

 

TWO: TAKING OFF

 

 

While the concerns multiply I am currently

Above weather.  Moving away from the missing

And the securing of my heart across stone.

 

The wing of the plane sisters cloud, turning the world

To one colour. Washing clean for two hours

The slate wedged between well worn states.

 

To be at this point with you far and somewhere

Else on the planet, masked by the slick rain

Of England as I am suddenly struck by new sun,

 

Is to recognise love may well be defined

By a passport and at such a remove, free from

Options, I could learn to receive anyone.

 

For this interim, there will be a small time

Of freedom. Before your love cages

And my need for the cell becomes one.

 

 

 

 

 

 THREE: IN FLIGHT

 

 

There is that particular point in the flight

Where the plane does not appear to be moving,

As if the sky was stalled. Your fate blocked and balanced

Before its own check-in gate.  Time’s idiot tale

Is falsified in that instant. As the wing’s dip

Reveals patterns that immediately seem alien.

 

You are all too quickly displaced, as looking up,

Space awaits you. The Earth’s edge, black paper

That the whiteness of God can write through.

All that binds you to the real is the technology

Of the present.  And the fact, that despite face

Or figure the Air Stewardess has a glamour

 

That her tight blouse and skirt can’t undo.

You are flying from the sharpness of day

Into an afternoon softness. Time cut by scissors

And the propulsion of blades across heat.

What you know of the world is absurd if it can be

Altered so quickly, as if the lives we all lead

 

Are just fragments that can be rearranged constantly.

The day has been pinched. When it should be lunch,

Its now evening. Have I been force-fed into aging,

Or do these splinters of day resist span?

All that remains is the trail of thoughts. Spent Graffiti;

Scrawls on the ceiling, scratched by sky fed ancient man.

 

 

 

FOUR:  A SUDDEN OUTBREAK OF COMMERCE

 

 

 

Flight is a shop. They lull you with lunch

Then sell at you.  A death in the sea may await you,

Or a terrorist coup, God forbid.

People passing others on, exchanging them

For new countries. An act of being, translated

Into a barter of steps on new ground. 

 

 

FIVE:  OUTSIDERING

 

 

The flutter of wind on the wing, like a film

Of the air’s conversation; the numerous vapours

Bemoaning this artificial slice through their realm.

 

Or perhaps, the joining of airs, as man apes

Bird distinctions. Flight’s swift persuasion

Of the ghost within cloud, served by steel.

 

 

SIX:  O, SUPERWOMAN

 

 

Dominatrix.

Nurse.

Maid.

 

For me, the Air-Stewardess truly has it.

She offers promise.

Her sex with the sky defies ground.

 

This fleeting truth is revealed

In the way that she wears her hair up,

As if her own life were lifted,

And her independence revealed.

 

Its profound.

 

The other fantasies stall,

Tied as they are to the bed-post.

 

The mile high club needs no toilet

When desire’s new course

Has been found. 

 

 

 

SEVEN:  ARRIVAL

 

 

Stockholm, in rain looking not unlike Milton Keynes,

Or worse, Watford; An iridescent food palace.

Princesses of sex sell kebabs. I wander, struck dumb, 

Fooled by the first taxi driver. Sixty euros down,

In some panic, I exchange the fifty I have left

For Kronor.  I forego a sumptuous Chinese meal

To fall for Burger King’s morphine, numbing the shock

With thin pleasure when I know the result will be fat.

I should have pushed the boat out this far, having located it between

Plane and taxi, to taste all that’s different, despite the fact

All’s the same.  Life is not at all what it was, but then again,

Was it ever?  Hoping to meet The One I’ll pass through here

Without having the chance to meet her.  Time is no time

Because we do not know how to judge it. Walking abroad,

New perspectives are in a poignant way, narrowing. 

 

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EIGHT:  SWEDISH TV

 

 

What sets each nation apart

Is often the hair of its actors.

In Sweden, egg baldness

Is surrounded by a low curtain of hair.

As if the head itself were the play,

Or theatre perhaps for emotion,

The male actors pall, academic

While their younger comrades lengthen fringe.

There is nothing wiry. All flows. There is the expected efficiency of it.

Even in grease, all is shining as if the cold and the snow

Brothered sun. The actresses and presenters, though pale,

All wear leather trousers.

ABBA meets Bergman as the Scandi-Noir risks a smile.

 

Naturally, this is all seen through half closed eyes

And untrusted. The real greets presumption

As the lumps of light summon night.

 

 

 

NINE:  BREAKFAST

 

 

Sweet curling ham that could almost be bacon.

Eggs scrambled lightly, to within an inch of a cloud.

Wolkshnapke cheese, the truth of its name

In its texture. The slim, crispy wafer as an alternative

To blood-breads. A breakfast that deigns

To meet the mouth of the tourist. But which retains,

Through precision a thoroughly regal  state.

Eating it, we succumb to the monarchy of the present.

Among these Japanese and Norweigans

My empire is mapped on warm plates.

 

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TEN:  EUROPA, O

 

 

Europe concedes to the brits even as we reject them.

Will the oncoming days house our language,

Or leave the Brexiting fools bastardised?

 

We should be silenced  for all we have done

With our voices; English and Americans also

Who have placed the shining shit as their prize.

 

Now in the murk we scour for gold through

Excrescence, for some small expression

That may convince the world’s hosts that our lies

 

Are not everyone’s.  The pig has run free

Of the farmer. Intelligent once, it resembles

The man in a wig with dead eyes.

 

There is the sound of hollow guffaws in the trees

As trotters tickle The Button. Abomination sits expectant

As hell meets its handcart and the rivers beneath duly dry.

 

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ELEVEN:  TO BOLDLY GO

 

 

Casting thought across space to consider life

On strange  planets, one need only visit new countries

To garner some of what that experience is.

 

The breathing of other airs, coupled with an outsider’s view

On decorum. The feeling within a Swedish train carriage,

Or on a Russian street.  A French kiss. 

 

We are all travelling if only to the Tabac

Or the churchyard. Each of us fused to a cosmos

in which the Utgang and Hiss are so far.

 

The breath or beards of young men

With an ice-cream scoop hairstyle, or a woman

Who was once small doll pretty, pierced so she shines

 

As a star. Each remains alien.

This universe swells as I travel. And  I am badly travelled.

Yet look at these steps. Void; procure.

 

 

TWELVE:  JUST CHECKING

 

 

Is masturbation alone

In a foreign hotel room

 

Any more wistful

 

Than in a place of one’s own?

 

Or is that touch an appeal

For someone to find you?

 

A small signal’s fire

Across a sea or field,

 

All seed sown?

 

 

THIRTEEN:  PREPARATIONS

 

 

After a night’s arrival, two meals, a look through town,

I am leaving. My imprint is flushed in an instant

To be replaced by fresh stains.  I was not even history here,

More of a moth; one day’s lifeline. Quickly rewritten

As I rest on the bed, dreading bags.

 

Soon I will fly, caked in my sweat and my burden,

As I negotiate custom  through the lengthening traditions

Of me. Not even enough spare cash for a beer,

As Stockholm is expensive. I am a parched prisoner,

Marked by travel, the withdrawal of which sets me free.

 

The cold is making everything ache, as I smell

The small machine rusting in me. I will need to cleanse

It all later, as opposed to oil. Musn’t eat.  The year ends

With a slide from a temporary reformation.

The old shape is about me and one I was keen to avoid.

 

This wasn’t ideal but I will still be paid, thanks to David,

My friend in business, jewishness and in name.

We have walked brothered paths, though his has been

More exotic. My orphaned field still surprises

Despite my knowing well its terrain.

 

It has rained here  all day. My face looks young.

Half my body. While the other is aching for someone else’s

Warm family. Perhaps its too late. The thoughts accrue.

Scant cohesion.  Or is such fragmentation the subject

When a man is beset by three pains?

 

That of the heart, mind and skin.  We each of us chase

Our solutions. As I return now to London whatever remains

Soon begins.  Does this little notebook reduce or expand

What I’m feeling? All writers’ pads are their gravestones,

Charting new births, marking deaths.     

 

 

FOURTEEN:  WHAT ICARUS TAUGHT

 

 

The stress of the check-in soon smears

Some of the peace I located. My own holiday moments

Have never totally stretched to a day.

 

And so the rigmarole fries, part of a far greater ritual,

In which the official pettiness bred by terror

Has made the getting to your seat a mind-bomb.

 

The woman’s rejection of the bag and the possible exile

Promised. The lack of concern is a scandal

As long as this process is performed.

 

People can be left, or luggage lost. Its what happens.

As long as the phoenix rises, preferably free from flame.

You must bow. You must bend to achieve your diagonal

 

In ascension. Just as Icarus struggled, so must you,

With your case. As the sun melted him, so the time sculpts

Your patience. Chipping it slowly, before releasing

 

Irregular shards into flight.  The slow bird greets the dark

Of an already ancient evening. It is only 6pm but these hours

Weather and knock at the bone. Everything snags.

 

Especially the noises of others. Passengers appear like depression;

A black line’s offence at my eye. I long for the ease of the flight

While I loathe the disease of preparing.  To exist in such moments

 

Is to know how that wing-struck one learnt to die.

 

 

FIFTEEN:  REPRIEVE AND REPRISE

 

 

Another sex stewardess on the return and reverse.

This one, younger. Her body’s explosion dressed up

As a tribute to glory’s full compliment.

 

 

SIXTEEN: PRIVATE, THEN PUBLIC CONCERNS

 

 

Privately loving someone as I do at a proximity to obsession,

A growing contempt for the public on a crowded plane or train

Still appals. That I can contain these extremes

Is not something fit for admittance, and yet the inane conversations

And selfishness shown makes skin crawl. Where then, can it go?

Maybe an atom’s worth in extension. 

Could that alteration affect human nature’s quantum?

I doubt it. If so, I certainly couldn’t see it. 

I would hope that this small shift in conscience

Might see the science of love and hate quite undone.

But then of course, there’s a view, ignorant, uninvited,

And love’s deepest horror is a shelter of sorts from the norm.

 

 

SEVENTEEN:  ANOTHER LOOK AT STEWARDSHIP

 

 

Is boredom brewing this?

 

The glaze at her eye as the announcement precludes her.

She is staring ahead, through her portal, in a melancholy pout, eyes declined.

 

Heavily mascared, false lashed, dark, frizzing hair, jutting, irish,

She works in a region not even the inevitable boyfriend can breach.

 

Look how the air offers her, casting her across oceans,

Like a coin tossed and tested, her currency unexchanged.

 

They care and don’t care. Why are the men homosexual?

As if there have to be types here, like Nurses,

 

Trained to watch us all through thick glass.

 

 

EIGHTEEN:  GSOH

 

 

God loves the gathering speed and then that sharp elevation,

As the plane climbs, He’s reminded of the firefly’s lustful leaps.

 

Or how the Biblical lost once tried to find him;

Scaling trees, seeking height,

And believing each cloud to be solid.

 

Then snagging it, like some anchor.

God wets Himself.

 

Turbulence

 

 

 

NINETEEN:  200SEK X 24

 

 

Stockholm,  once stronghold

Of the great Ingmar Bergman – who now graces a 200 sek banknote.

 

For 4,800 Kronor you could revive him

In a one second flickbook of his filmic return from the dead.

 

 

TWENTY:  THE BOOK I’M READING

 

 

Job cancelled, I am only coming home the next day and yet it feels like a fortnight,

Thanks to the body’s aches, melancholy and a confirmed lack of sleep.

Odd how everything in me needs tea on account of caffeine withdrawal.

Strength sapped, will politeness guide me past the guardians at the gate?

This wrong-footing through time, truncating and then retrieving lost hours

Has accordioned my squat body and left some of the air seeping through.

 

  1. Catling’s Vorrh has been the only thing to sustain me, its incantatory

Dreamscape will assist from within my return. Tsungali’s bow made from Este,

Using fibres gleaned from her body is as common to me now as the time drag

That has been wrenching me out of shape. Travel broadens the mind

But it traumatises the main-frame, as the blurred picture shimmers

Before settling to mixed shades of grey. Hair, suit, skin, hope.

 

Can grey hope ever help you?

Ask that of Muybridge whose faded kills split design.

My body is also in parts, murdered by flight

For sleep’s surgeon to somehow restore me

And the story resume.

 

I read on.  

 

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TWENTY ONE:  REFLECTIONS ON

 

 

As I approach home, these thoughts:

A cigarette’s worth of concerns resume smoking.

 

And yet the coming year proffers promise.

Here’s to what I take in and exhale.

 

A year’s work ending blank with shadows of hope

Through the paper. What awaits, death or taxes?

 

Love or success? Who will fail?

A trip of two days forms some sort of coda.

 

A book’s white endpapers

On which can be told the new tale.

 

David Erdos, December 21st 2016

 


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