From many places, speaking truth
and making magic happen. Celebrating language.
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JAN OSKAR HANSEN - Page 10
|Dimensionless||Wretched in Spain||Shadows||Livorno|
|Portrait||The Great Domestic Escape||Another Country, Another Funeral||Peace|
|The Enemy Within
||Those Who Do Your Bidding||Alcoholism||Summer Grass|
|Late, Last Summer||The Day After Last Night||Denial
||Old Friend||Rural God||Transience (Morning in Manila)
|A New Launch||Amsterdam Spring||Do Not Mention the War
|Conumdrum||Apples and God||Regarding Breivik|
Go to Page 1 . Page 2 . Page 3 . Page 4 . Page 5 . Page 6 . Page 7 . Page 8 . Page 9
Wretched in Spain
At a restaurant, a Sunday afternoon in Spain,
I couldn't hear what the waiter said for noise
of diners, sounded as ten thousand crows arguing
over a dead sheep. Wished for radio stations to
shut up and TV to stop broadcasting, for the print
press to stop churning out words and poets to stop
writing about the moon and horses. The world
needs silence, absolute quietness if it's going to
heal itself, icecaps stop thawing, ozone layers close;
and rain fall where it's needed. Expectant princess
of Spain, zillion words, pictures and comments
made over an ordinary occurrence, they asked
the king of Spain what he thought, naturally he was
delighted, what else was he going to say? "She's
a tart, has seduced my dim but friendly son?" Shut
up, you noisy diners, let me eat and drink in peace,
don't even tinkle silver bells in Tibet.
The street in the hilly Iberian town, climbing
up into a haze, was lifeless, flooded by sun,
a cat came out of a hole in a fence tried to
cross gave up and slinked back;
under an archway a pale shadow was held by
the iron grip of the saint of shadows, if sun
reached them they would both be obliterated,
and the world, drown in bright light;
as the sun shifted shadows boldly crept along
the left side of the street, other shadows came,
merged, an army conquering the pavement and
half the street;
the cat came out, crossed the street, a woman
opened her front door, her dog chased the cat;
as the saint began walking up the street, sun
retreated and it was twilight.
Awoke in a bar, empty save for the barman
polishing glasses. "Any chance for a cold
beer? "Sure, but no glass, I've washed them
all." The morning tasted of spring, pastry
and cut flowers, in the town square's, water
came out of a petrified dolphin's mouth.
I showered watched by a patrolman and an
old whore who had seen it all. Later, in a café
near the meat market, the officer looked up
and said "Good morning." The old tart, since
I wasn't a costumer gave me a grandmotherly
smile, she could relax and enjoy the morning.
The Danish mermaid's little
Sister doesn't get her bum wet
Sitting prettily on a shallow shoal,
She is an alcoholic siren, in
A sleazy bar, and drinks whisky
On the rocks
The Great Domestic Escape
Balancing on my toes I reached the door handle
only to find it locked, with the key on the outside.
Tried to get up on the window sill to see if it was
raining by using the curtain as a rope, the railing
broke, nearly drowned under cotton and dust.
In the kitchen four cute mice danced around a pink
gateau they refused to share with me. Had a tin of
rice pudding but, no opener, threw it savagely on
the floor and it rolled through the cat-flap, tried
to squeeze through it too, got stuck; thrashed about,
the door opened, it wasn't locked after all. Hungry,
I ate stale sunrays left on the floor since yesterday.
Outside the night came rolling down the hill, ran in,
closed and leaned against the door, put my foot on
the flap when darkness tried to squeeze through it.
Decided to wait till morning before escaping again.
Another Country, Another Funeral
The doctor had gone, a day in May,
two men in sober black and a gypsy
woman with dangling earrings came.
In the spare room they dressed him in
his best blue suit, green tie, white shirt
and polished brown shoes; put him in
a coffin placed on the long collapsible
table they had brought along.
The woman went to work, made him up
till his face looked like a depraved
dyke's. A giggle I couldn't repress came
on, went into the loo, the others thought
I wanted to be manly and sob alone.
Villagers came to pay respects, women
wept and crossed themselves, the men
were glassy eyed and drunk.
Next day we drove to the cemetery, it
wasn't far, in black hats and shawls which
no one took off. The sun was hot, women
and men pale and shaky. The Father did his
stuff, sprinkled water about, but kept it
short. A warm breeze gently flew, sifted
dust and told of futility as relentless life
filled the space my friend had occupied.
It is the inner
circle of stillness
the murmur of
those who died,
yet speak to
me in silence;
their whisper is
a gentle ripple on
the strand of time;
and makes my heart
less fearful of
the legendary night.
The Enemy Within
Walking passed the big mirror in the hall on route to
the kitchen, I saw, in the corner of my left psychic
eye (the right one is blind)) my image turn and look
at me with dislike. Lately it has been trying to invade
my mind with easy, illiberal thoughts: "the poor are
poor because they are lazy, AIDs victims have only
themselves to blame, Africa's plight is her own fault,
the Palestinians must stop attacking Israel if they want
peace, Moslems are trying to subvert our democracy."
I stopped, confronted my image, the stern judgmental
face faded, made way for a slightly more dishevelled
one. No, I'll not take the easy route, injustice concerns
me; looked at my teeth, yellow, I really have to go
see a dentist. Soon.
Those Who Do Your Bidding
The Humvee stalled, driver killed, the two soldiers
left were told to surrender to a gang of merciless
street fighters, unbelievably they did. The gang now
vented their fury, of all things western, on two boys
from small town America, poor America; the army's
cannon fodder, the losers of all wars. The oldest boy,
(luck of the draw) cried, was flung on the floor and
as the other looked on, his throat was slit. Innocence
of the lamb. The surviving soldier, now quivering,
couldn't retain his bodily fluid, how they laughed,
the bearded men: "American soldiers are cowards."
But he did not hear; ran in the woods, near his home,
a squirrel in a tree saw him, he looked up and waved.
A freezing whisper flew into the room; and hard men
Walked up a narrow staircase, unwashed
for decades, light from a miserable 15 watt
bulb was absorbed by snuff brown walls.
Flat 19, room dark, curtains drawn;
the love of my life sat on a booze soiled,
fag holed sofa.
Vacant eyes in a haggard face, there was
nothing in the landscape of her face told
that once she had been a beauty queen.
Empty bottles everywhere, gave her a full
one, made my visit short, she didn't care,
had her booze and I was forgotten.
The TV is in another room, a Portuguese woman
reads the evening news. I used to be in love with
her till she slimmed herself scrawny, the only
thing left of her is a pair of enormous lips, while
the dog noisily dreams of chasing rabbits.
Is there life on Jupiter, Mars or Saturn? I do not
know nor do I care, but I do know that the man
on the moon is a drag artist called Alf Luna.
Once saw two enraptured hares, sat on the stub
of a dastardly felled olive tree watching the sun
sink into the sea; even a blasé sparrow hawk was
so impressed that it stopped, for a few seconds,
chasing lesser birds. On a grassy knoll a beautiful
mare stood looking down into the dale, soon she
would be a mother again, doesn't care about the sex
of her baby, as long as it's a healthy foal.
Once I saw an elephant conducting a symphony
(the whole works), but only it and other elephants
could understand. My dog wakes up by her own
bark; I do not laugh, that only makes her mortified,
but look up to the ceiling. If I could communicate
with animals, share their knowledge (not the kind
you need for driving a taxi in London) and music,
I would surely be a better man.
Late, Last Summer
September beach is empty, save for
a few rowing boats tugging at their
moorings, seagulls and me.
Summer is reluctant to leave, but
auburn leaves are falling, cling to
yellow weed and solid rocks.
Gentle ripples from the cooling sea
hum a farewell and whisper about
renewal and better times.
Last swim this year, dog is watching
me, but won't join in; so farewell
then till next, maybe?
The Day After Last Night
The echo of wine is sadness, jokes are
stale and laughter is a bronchial cough.
Mirth gone, Sunday is an autumnal leaf
that blows along clammy asphalt.
Worn faces, half hidden by black shawls
hesitate by the church's steps as wanting
to hear more sweet words of everlasting
love before going home to vacant rooms
and dripping kitchen taps.
October rain courtly drizzle on Sunday's
best, bat wings open up and the murmur
of the futureless is a dying echo; as padre
Umberto smokes a cigarette in the vestry,
the wine has lost its lustre.
Morning angst, something said last
night, that should have been unsaid;
the smell of lonely sex and an empty
bottle under the bed.
Sunlight tries to break in through
tears in tobacco yellow curtains,
expose dust on dead plants and spot
rot on night's red rose.
My scruples are distressing me,
they're the only thing left; if I wake
up without guilt one day, will I then
be free to fly away?
His black suit so old it shone green,
flowing white beard, his eyes,
lanterns of wisdom. When crossing
roads cars slowed down in respect
for his unspoken authority.
Followed him, this holy man, down
to the docks and saw, just before I
fell over a bollard, his shadow walk
on water. An artistic hand helped me
up. Mirth in eyes, he said: "Watch
your steps son, I'm not your father,
only the pianist in Alfred's bar."
Harbour light dripped on a cold sea when
the ship docked, pale faced, serious custom
officers wait for the gangway to be lowered,
enter and sift through our private belongings.
When engine stopped an eerie silence crept
around, filled the ship with secret whispers,
and echoes of footsteps going nowhere.
Sleep slipped away, thoughts awoke came
out of dark recess on this loveless night;
a memory of spring, when winter mulishly
clung to hollows behind oak tree, perforated
snow rescued by night frost, but smaller till
winter was a white dot that disappeared into
the open mind of a ten year old. At dawn
longshoremen will board, noise and careless
feet on pristine decks; before twilight she'll
leave for another voyage on the restless sea.
Biking along a country lane I saw, at a distance,
a sartorial elegant man, a real gent, grey suit,
white face standing in the shade of a big tree,
clearly not a man hanging about in the sun.
Stopped took off my sunglasses, the man was
an amputated tree, his face a brutal chainsaw
slash, petrified tears made of sap glinted.
I should have said something I should have
spoken; what do you say to a tree that has just
been maimed and is bleeding white blood?
An ice-cream van came; I bought a strawberry
sundae, as I was eating the sweet stuff a hearse
comes gliding by, and behind the subbing of
feet; the lid of the coffin opened, my friend,
Finn, who I hadn't seen since he fell off a cliff
fifty years ago, sat up looked around smiled and
sang: "If your chewing gum loses its flavour
on the bed post over night" then slunk back in
his coffin. How much we used to laugh about
that song, how much I loved him then.
The subbing feet belonged to an old school friend,
Only I didn't know they were, till one held up
a placard: "We are your school friends, don't
you remember us?" No, why should one remember
old men looking like headmasters with faces
made stern by the north/westerly wind and small
town Christianity. Finn was the only young one,
he would never grow old like us. On the face of
the sartorial tree, more sap came from the chain
saw slashed face, it tasted of sweet melancholy.
Subbing feet: not lifting them off the ground.
Say, lemon man, I said,
(wasn't going to blow his disguise)
wouldn't you make more money
selling your lemons in a town?
Nope, people there have lost touch with
the land, they dont know what
a lemon looks like, but theres
a man there, you might have seen him,
he's got a limp, who sells artificial lemon juice;
he has taken all my costumers,
it's only the old people in the village
who buy my lemons now.
Here have another one it's free.
Transience (Morning in Manila)
Tropical morning, it had rained in
the night and streets looked bright,
soon it will be very hot and a throng
of busy people would be milling about
trying to make a dollar and there wasn't
enough of the stuff to go around.
I had spent the night in an air- conditioned
hotel room, my normal home was a small
cabin on an old tramp ship that should
have been sold for scrap years ago, but she
was chartered by a Japanese company
for anther two years.
The girl who had shared my bed lived in
a shanty town, for her too this was a novelty;
she had wanted me to have breakfast with her,
my god! Did she think I was the captain?
I'm the cook, had to be onboard and cater for
a sullen crew; if lucky I would finish work
about seven at night.
A grocery across the road had opened,
walked over and had a cold beer,
it filled me with hope; thought of having
another one, desisted, drank a pedestrian coke
instead while waiting for a taxi, wishing
the world would stand still, if just for
one lousy day.
A New Launch
I can see it now, sun paled rocks by the sea
nuns in a rowing boat and terns glued to
the calm, blue sky; I lived there once where
eternal summer reigned till crisp snow fell
covering the land with hushed wonder and
the aroma of home baked bread; till Easter
lilies and green grass reappeared. I know
there is no way back, yet, what I have lost
will always stay with me; the ethereal dream
of an Eden.
Morning in a bar, cleaned windows
New sets of curtains, shiny mirrors;
Cigarette smoke has dissipated.
Perfumed air, gleaming toilet, smells
Of bleach; jukebox is blissfully off
And the baseball bat is unemployed.
Do Not Mention the War
I had promised myself not to write about the war
in Iraq, my voice is weak and goes unheard, but it
pleases me to read that 500 British troops have
left Basra and gone to the air station out of town;
soon they will have gone for good. Bon voyage.
Not the American troops though, they will have to
stay a little longer and bleed more. Let the parents
of dead soldiers believe their sons died defending
their country, they are poor and need this illusion.
Why should we insist on telling the truth that their
loved ones died for vainglorious men who thought
they could rule the world unopposed.
In the bay a single-mast sailing vessel, a sloop, rigged
fore and aft, was anchored near the shore. I swam over
and was met by a couple in their forties who had spent
time and money doing the old ship up. The idea was to
sail along the coast delivering cargo, cheaper than by
trucks and her hold was quite roomy. I didn't tell them
that most cargo now is in containers and that a sloop
needs her deck clear of clutter. They wanted one more
crew member, kindly offered me a job; knew they didn't
mean it. I had gladdened them by admiring their ship.
"Too old to climb the rigs," I said, but offered to cook,
they smiled at that. Restless night, I was the captain of
a sloop bound for Buenos Aires, the great city looked
just as I remembered from last time I was there in 1964.
Quick evacuation of wounded soldiers
On the battlefield
Keeps the death rate of warriors down
And we accept the losses.
But it also makes wars last much longer
To the detriment
Of civilians caught up in countries where
Warfare is happening
And civilian deaths are disregarded.
Apples and God
In the twilight I saw a nun coming down the hilly street towards me; in the shiny
grayness of the evening, I could see a cross of the crucified Jesus around her neck.
I was filled with foreboding, as I have always had a fear of Christianity.
I remembered what an old man, who had a long white beard and always wore
a black hat, told me - that if I saw a nun I should spit three times and run away.
I ran and ran but whichever road I followed she still came behind me. I fled into a
garden full of apple trees and climbed up one of them. Sat there for hours till I got
hungry and picked an apple; it tasted like acid and filled my mouth with the unknown.
Yet I had the sense to fill my pocket with the forbidden fruit. Back home I told mother
what had happened. I gave her the fruits and she cut them up into pieces and strewed
sugar on them and now they tasted lovely. She told me not to mind what old men said
and that the nun was a victim of her delusion. She also told me to buy apples next
time and not to steal them. The next day I bought two green bananas; it took weeks
before they were ripe enough to eat.
Regarding Breivik, the thinking in Norway is that he is a sort of evil Nazi.
(Comments I wrote to a newspaper)
He is no such thing, and I wrote that like an earthquake or a tsunami he
Cannot be regarded as evil, and we just have to accept the tragedy --
Terms many found offensive. There is a longing to have this odious
Man confess to his crimes and repent. When a storm sinks a ship we
Do not ask the storm to repent and say it is sorry. And I wrote that Breivik
Must be seen as a tragedy that struck the country, that in the future
We must be careful and try to minimize its onslaught, but we cannot as
A society stop it altogether. Life is risky and this kind of thing will happen.
If we want 100% security we have to lock down the country and live in
A vacuum… Or do as Israel tries to do, enslave our neighbors and make
All ountries 100% insecure.