Written between 1pm Monday 19th December and 7pm Tuesday 20th December 2016
In the changing hours between London and Sweden
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
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