Showing posts with label travel poems. Show all posts
Showing posts with label travel poems. Show all posts

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Dublin Perambulation

Parnell's Protestant, pugnacious statue
directs foot traffic, which today
is syrupy slow and sweet, a mix
of Kerry green and Dublin blue
on the big day of Gaelic football
championships match: "All

amateur, mind you, and good
for the family," says everyone
we've listened to about the matter.

On wide O'Connell Street,
buskers and beggars attract
brassy coins like bees
in the names of art and pity.

Then here comes the autumn
breeze, as fresh as, well,
I don't know what, but
it's hauling ass down the street.

And here comes a casino,
"Dr. Quigley's Goodtimes Emporium,"
how droll, how not-Las-Vegas.
Skulking, big, and befuddled,
I buy braided strands of cerulean
wool yarn and declare ritual
loyalty to the Boys in Blue."

But really I'm thinking of the
main fortress in town. It is
circular, and it's a library.
Two great ideas married.

My hip aches like history's teeth,
and although I appreciate Yeats
and Joyce, Lady Gregory
and Eavan Boland, and 1916,
and the troubles, and wit, I just want
some brown bread and jam..

Anxious shrieking seagulls
in St. Stephen's Green seem
to agree with me. Dublin's
and easy city, if--as with all
cities--you have a bit of money.
The swan I see in the big
pond came from Coole,
that's a lie, and I'm hungry.

hans ostrom 2019

Friday, December 6, 2019

And the Smiles Don't Disappear

In another century, you walked
across Litenyny Bridge,
St. Petersburg. Snow with notions
of rain fell tangentially then.
You'd come from Sweden
expecting nothing. The city
was scuffed, stained, and strained.
Puffing buses spewed black exhaust,
hauling exhausted people. You
were on your way to the Finland
Station, because of what you'd read,
not what you'd lived. The river
was white. And beautiful.

Now in this century, lights
of St. Petersburg have bloomed.
The Bronze Horseman's vision
of the City has been buffed.
Hope's been hauled up out
of sad pits. People breathe
and laugh, walk to school
and work in good clothes.
Fresh vegetables for all.
Revolution enough, but don't
tell Lenin. When in St. Petersburg,

you must look for Akhmatova's
house, well at least one she lived
in. Because you like living,
you seek beet soup in September
as rain with notions of sunshine
falls in a kindly way on the massive
monuments, on peoples hats
and umbrellas, on their smiles,
which don't disappear.

hans ostrom 2019

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Their Dominion Today

Always the birds, to haul you back
from history, splendor's clutter,
and your grasping mind. On a steel
bench outside Catherine's Summer
Palace, near a lakely pond,
I get an ear buzzed by a sparrow
on its way to pick over grain
tourists tossed to ducks.

A black and grey raven lands
close on a bench-back, cocks
its head to cast a cold eye
of inquiry. Sun warmth,
oaks, willows, and breeze suggest
Central California to me.
Our landscapes are so much
more similar than our politics
force us not to be. Here

is here. Birds live in their
own geography and polity.
They know they can't eat
history or nest in ideology.
Today is their dominion
outside St. Petersburg.

hans ostrom 2019

Saturday, September 14, 2019

The Legend of the River Liffey Pike

And here we will pass on
the tale of the River Lifffey
Pike. This pike was so big
(so big!) that in order to
change its direction in the
Liffey, it had to perform
a three-point turn like
a black limousine. And this
is as true as it possibly can be.

Over many years, all the
anglers around Leixlip
and Straffan tried to catch
the pike but the giant just
slammed into their legs,
ate lines and leaders,
snapped fishing poles
like twigs, and threatened
children and nuns.

Finally one day the
notorious poacher Bon
hooked the massive mean
pike with sturdiest leader,
line, and pole. A dry
fly he was using. Bon
fought the fish, fought
it but couldn't reel it
in. So he went to the bank
with his pole and circled
a large tree many times,
docking the River Liffey
Leviathan. Then Bon

clambered up the bank
and lumbered is way
to the Salmon Leap Tavern
in Leixlip. He recruited
a band of Guinness-lit
lads to help him haul the
big pike in. Bon led

the laughing band down
to the bank, only to find
that the leader, the line,
the pole, the tree, and the fish
had all disappeared.

So big, so large, so grand
was the River Liffey Pike
that it had hooked the famous
poacher Bon, played him
for an optimist (all anglers
are optimists, they must be),
reeled him in, and dropped
him in the creel of local legend.

On your travels you may find
yourself in Leixlip on Cooldrinagh
Road, Lucan Demesne, County
Kildare, Ireland. Stop by the Salmon
Leap Tavern, it's there, and after
you've settled in with a pint
and made the acquaintance
of those in attendance, ask them if
they've heard of the River Liffey
Pike that gathered in the leader,
the line, the pole, and the tree
and set itself free from the infamous
poacher, Old Bon, who upon returning
from his loss, stood all the lads
to a pint and started to tell
them a story they already knew
and added some details, a few,
just a few.

hans ostrom 2019

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Train Station, Milano

Because you're exhausted,
not to mention privileged,
you rest in Milano's main station
and let it be a buffering space
between you and America's
grotesqueries. You wonder if
anyone uses the word grotesqueries
anymore. Prob'ly not. You can't deny
the passport in your pocket.

You prefer the station cafe,
which pigeons frequent. They
thrust their monocled eyes
into the mix, use crumbs
as dice, and gamble away
their past with glee. Their
conversations distill many
throated percolations. Same
goes for the people.

Words from many human
languages try the air. Your
wish not to hear American
English is granted. People
in the station are happy
to see each other, their
laughter isn't cruel, and
no one's belligerent. It
seems miraculous.

hans ostrom 2018

Friday, April 21, 2017

Balzac's Ghost and the Crucial Detail

She brought the wrong clothes to Paris,
which wasn’t as warm as imagination.
She borrowed a sweater and a coat
from me; also shoes, and the heavy socks
that made them fit.  My sweater, especially,
seemed to enjoy having her wear it
in cafes, brasseries, and markets. I

explained all this to Balzac’s ghost
at the writer’s home on Rue Raynouard.
Even though I wasn’t speaking French,
Balzac understood immediately. I went
on to observe that almost everyone
almost everywhere works hard and life
slips by so quickly and then all of a sudden

you’re a ghost listening to a tourist.
Yes, yes, said Balzac’s ghost, but
tell me, what color is the sweater she
borrowed from you? Green, I said.
That, he said, is today’s crucial detail.

Hans Ostrom

from The Coast Starlight: Collected Poems 1976-2006

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Kiruna: New Year's Eve

(December 1980)

At noon there was a murky soup of light,
which darkness drank.

Iron miners cruise in large
awkward old American cars
on Kiruna's frozen streets.
The custom is for each drunk
passenger to pay a driver
to be not drunk.

Samis sell bone-handled knives
and jewelry the color of
salmon eggs.

At the New Year's party, my Swedish
cousin and I watch shadows and smudges
of the original King Kong play
on a Finnish TV station. My cousin
is blonder than Fay Wray.

Fireworks outside seem stupid because
we didn't have to wait for darkness.
At 11:00 p.m. my cousin reports
that she always cries at the stroke
of the New Year. I'm prepared,
like a Swede, when tears travel
from her eyes like small droplets
of Sami pewter.  I'm impressed

when one tear lands in her
glass of Norwegian champagne.

1981/2017 Hans Ostrom

Monday, October 10, 2016

Transformation: Tourist

He arrived by phone
at his destination
and immediately began
slamming into local
culture.  He attached
guide books to his torso
to create armor. Soon

he settled into doing
the things he did back
home, except he was
doing them in wherever
he was which was
"a land of contrasts."

Otherwise, he bought
things, threw things
away, kept the drapes
closed, sweated a lot,
and sank into depression.
Fascinating trip.

hans ostrom 2016

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Söderfors, Sweden

Söderfors, Sweden

Brown mortar, black bricks, buildings
from industry’s youth.

Two girls walk along a narrow
sandy path over the dam. Violent brown-black
water rushes through
the spillway. A sign cautions.

A gull nests in a granite slab.
(Incubation is a branch of geology.)

Reach for the black bricks—
to know them. Their texture is glass.
They were cooked to the point
at which manufacturing gives way

to beautiful compounds. Söderfors
is a silent town. Its cast-iron clock
is ornate and wrong. Bright green,

nearly lime: that used to be the color
of a rusting Saab parked all by itself.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

What I Miss About Sweden

Jag saknar Sverige.
Have I
sentimentalized that long country?
To be sure. Still there's much
to miss specifically. How
Swedes listen and have known
silence to be a key component
of conversation. How
they're suspicious of people
who require attention and thus
of Americans. The ubiquitous

(or so it seems) aromas
of coffee and pastry and certain
spices. Small grocery stores
that sell small potatoes still
with dried mud on them. The

presence of the absence of war.
A multitude of drolleries.
Crunch of tires and boots
on snow. Bicycles through snow.
The practical national enthusiasm
for children as a protected class.

Group-thinking (but not group-
thought). The way the language
swings--no wonder that the Swedes
loved Duke Ellington. Certain shades

of yellow on large public buildings,
and of red on cottages. Order,
without mania. How light
is a Norse god. Pop music. Jazz,
blues. Cucumber sandwiches.
Herring, herring everywhere.
And the news, which is, as it
should be, presented with
suspicion and perplexity.

hans ostrom 2015